Government has failed to check rising input costs, claim farmers

Farmers’ march: Thousands of farmers have pitched tents in the capital to demand a session of Parliament devoted exclusively to agriculture. They also want passage of two farmer-oriented private member’s bills endorsed by 21 Opposition parties in the Parliament.

cities Updated: Nov 30, 2018 07:57 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
farmers march,Delhi farmers march,farmers march in delhi
Farmers take part in a march organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) organisation and Communist Party of India (Marxist) in New Delhi on November 29, 2018, as they call for pro-farmer legislation in the Indian parliament.(AFP)

Farmers from six states who reached the capital in large numbers on Thursday said despite measures by the government to boost the agrarian economy, the rising costs of cultivation meant they are still forced to sell their produce at a loss.

Several protesting farmers said prices of inputs, such as fertilizer, pesticides and seeds, were “rising incessantly”.

The Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) or prime minister’s farmers’ income protection drive, which had been announced on September 12, had failed to improve market prices of their produce.

The farmers have said they would march to Parliament on Friday. Click here for live updates on farmers march in Delhi.

Thousands of farmers have pitched tents in the capital to demand a session of Parliament devoted exclusively to agriculture. They also want passage of two farmer-oriented private member’s bills endorsed by 21 Opposition parties in the Parliament.

A private member’s bill is one that is not part of the government’s official law-making agenda and is moved by an individual MP.

The first bill seeks a one-time loan waiver and the other proposes a legal right to profitable prices.

“They are here to say just one thing… that farmers are simply fed up,” said Yogendra Yadav, the leader of Swaraj India.

“The Bhavantar scheme promised to pay us the shortfall between mandi (market) prices and the minimum support price (MSP). Our district officer said this was not an option this year because guidelines are not in place yet,” said Shanta Ram from Rajasthan’s Sikar.

MSPs are federally fixed benchmark profitable prices. The government raised MSPs of summer crops at least 1.5 times over production costs.

Champa Halder, a woman farmer from Bengal’s Sundarbans, said, “If I would have got MSP rates, why would I come here?”

Owing to advocacy by farm organisations, many farmers at the protest said they were familiar with the two measures of production costs economists use in policy-making.

The government uses the so-called “A2” formula, a narrower measure that includes all out-of-pocket expenses, plus the value of family labour. The farmers instead demanded the government use the “C2 formula”, which is a broader measure that includes the actual paid-out costs (on seeds, fertilisers, irrigation, etc) plus the notional value of family labour, rent, besides interest on owned land and capital.

“That is what the Swaminathan Committee recommended,” said Punjab Singh, a lentil grower from Haryana’s Sirsa. The National Commission on Farmers, also known as the Swaminathan Committee, had been set up in 2004 to address rising cases of farmers suicides in the country.

Farm organisations have formed a common platform, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, to press for the two bills to be passed. The bills have been backed by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief and former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, the Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge, Left leader Sitaram Yechury and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader K Kanimozhi, among others.

First Published: Nov 30, 2018 07:52 IST