In a written communique sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday pushed the blame on to the Centre for farmers suffering huge financial distress due to untenable prices of foodgrains so as to keep consumer prices affordable for the poor.
He said the policies of successive governments at the Centre had led to the country’s breadwinner going hungry and virtually reduced to a beggar.
He demanded one-time loan waiver for small and marginal farmers and agricultural labourers, and cautioned that in case the problem is neglected it would endanger the country’s food security in the long run.
On two occasions in the past, Badal has raised the issue in meetings with Modi. Quoting national figures, Badal said as per estimates by the Centre, Rs 52,438 crore of banks was outstanding towards farmers in March 2013.
“The alarming mismatch between costs incurred by the farmers and minimum support price (MSP) has created a crisis-like condition for farming community,” Badal wrote demanding adoption of the MS Swaminathan formula, which offers assured MSP that accounts for the basic costs incurred on production plus 50% profit.
“Deficiency price payment mechanism should also be put in place in case of other crops like maize and cotton so as to ensure viable returns to the farmers through rational fiscal pricing in the form of remunerative MSP,” Badal demanded.
Badal’s letter says the state had always been in the forefront of ensuring food security for the nation and had been contributing about 40%-50% of wheat and 30%-35% of rice to the central pool for the past three decades, and such was the level of involvement and commitment of the farmers to their profession that with just over 2% of country’s geographical area Punjab contributed the heaviest share among all states to the national food kitty.
The CM bemoaned that this had been achieved at a huge cost to the state and its farmers as the Punjab farmers had bartered away their only two natural resources: soil fertility and water.
Badal said the prices of agricultural produce like foodgrains had been increasing arithmetically while the hike in the costs of inputs had been geometrical.
“The changes in MSP actually work out to be in the negative direction, which was that the real prices have actually been going down whereas costs of inputs have been mounting at alarmingly inflationary rates,” Badal said.
Referring to the vagaries of weather during the last two years -- the drought-like situation in kharif 2014 and 2015 and untimely rains during rabi 2014-15, coupled with failure of cotton crop, had been devastating -- Badal demanded plot-based crop insurance from the Centre instead of bigger chunk of a district or a block as proposed by the Centre.