In A Blow To Farmers’ Protests Against Agri Reforms, K Chandrasekar Rao Says Telangana Government Can’t Procure All Crops At MSP

by M R Subramani - Dec 30, 2020 07:33 AM
In A Blow To Farmers’ Protests Against Agri Reforms, K Chandrasekar Rao Says Telangana Government Can’t Procure All Crops At MSPTelangana State Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. (Facebook)
Snapshot
  • “Sale and purchase [of crops] are not the responsibility of the government. It is not possible to set up a purchasing centre in the village from next year onwards,” said a statement from the Telangana Chief Minister’s office.

Even as farmers associations are set to hold talks with the Union government on ending their protests against agricultural reforms, they have been dealt a body blow by one of their strongest supporters, Telangana State Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.

The blow particularly comes from the CM's statement saying that it is not possible for his Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) government to procure all agricultural produce at minimum support price (MSP).

In a U-turn from his earlier stand opposing the agricultural reforms — ushered in by the Narendra Modi government passing three crucial acts in Parliament during the monsoon session — Rao said that there was no need for the state government to purchase agricultural crops.

This was in view of the new farm laws being implemented across the country, allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country to anyone.

The TRS and Rao had supported the Bharat Bandh organised by the farmers’ organisations earlier this month and voted against all the three bills in Parliament.

The Chief Minister told a high-level meeting of officials, convened on Sunday evening on procurement of various crops, that the agricultural sale and purchase would now be left to the market forces.

“The State government cannot do it anymore as it is not a business organisation or trader. It is not a rice miller or a dal miller. Sale and purchase are not the responsibility of the government. It is not possible to set up a purchasing centre in the village from next year onwards,” said a statement from the Telangana Chief Minister’s Office.

During the meeting, Rao said that since the formation of Telangana in 2014, the state had incurred losses to the tune of Rs 7,500 crore in procuring crops such as paddy, maize, sorghum, lentils and millets. Purchases of grains alone led to a loss of Rs 3,935 crore, he said.

The Telangana Chief Minister’s statement comes at a time when the farmers’ organisations, mainly from Punjab, parts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are demanding legal status for MSP.

The Centre, however, has assured to give them a written assurance that MSP will not be discontinued.

The associations are holding their sixth round of negotiations with the Union government, and their key demand is the repeal of all the three acts passed by Parliament.

This year, the state government had set up collection centres in villages and procured various crops on humanitarian grounds to ensure that farmers did not suffer, particularly in view of the restrictions due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

“It will not be possible to do this every year,” he said, adding that his government was forced to sell the procured crops at a lower price due to lack of demand.

The three bills, which have now become acts, were passed by Parliament as part of the Modi government’s economic reforms under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan to tide over the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

The three bills — Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Production and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — are seen as a “game-changer” in Indian agriculture.

While the Trade Act allows farmers to sell their produce to anyone anywhere in the country, the Price Assurance Act allows contract farming with the laws framed favouring the growers. In fact, the contract has to be in a language the grower can understand.

The Essential Commodities Act amendment removes the storage limit on various commodities and will thus enable growers to sell their produce without any worry during the peak harvest periods.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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