New Delhi: With crucial Assembly elections in key Hindi-speaking states just weeks away and the Lok Sabha polls due in 2019, the Centre on Wednesday announced a six per cent hike in wheat support price to Rs 1,840 per quintal and up to 21 per cent increase in other rabi crops, a move that will give farmers Rs 62,635 crores in additional income and help contain their simmering discontent over high input cost and low returns.
The decision by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came a day after a massive two-day protest by farmers right at the doorstep of the nation’s capital seeking high support prices and loan waivers.
While farmers, after being pounded by teargas shells and water cannons for two days, left for their homes Tuesday night without getting any assurance from the Centre on any of their demands, the Cabinet decision on a hike in rabi crops’ support prices came Wednesday evening as it was mindful that rebuffing the farmers could be counter-productive in an election year.
The protesting farmers had ended their march at Kisan Ghat in Delhi early on Wednesday after the police, which had stopped them on the city’s border, allowed their entry. The Delhi police removed the barricades around 12.30 am to allow the farmers, who were stopped on Tuesday at UP Gate on the Uttar Pradesh-Delhi border, to proceed to Kisan Ghat, the memorial of farmer leader and former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh located adjacent to Rajghat between the banks of the Yamuna river and Mahatma Gandhi Road.
The farmers entered Delhi riding their tractors and trolleys, paid tribute at the memorial, and by 5 am started their return journey to their homes in Rajasthan, Haryana, UP and Madhya Pradesh.
While most protesting farmers left Delhi, several leaders, including BKU chief Naresh Sigh Tikait, are staying put near the UP-Delhi border where Tuesday’s clash took place with the police. But almost six hours after the BKU ended its protest, a splinter group protested at the Delhi-Noida border, raising a host of demands like loan waiver and pension. They later agitated at the Jantar Mantar in the heart of Delhi on Wednesday afternoon. A senior Delhi police officer said around 200 farmers protested at Jantar Mantar.
The Cabinet’s decision will help farmers earn an additional income of Rs 62,635 crores (including both the increased support price on rabi crops as well as the recent hike announced in kharif crops MSP a few weeks ago by the Centre), law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after the meeting.
Recently the government had announced higher MSP for kharif (summer) crops, to fulfil its promise of giving farmers 50 per cent more price than their cost of production and in the process, doubling their income.
Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said MSPs for all rabi crops are higher than the cost of production ranging from 50-112 per cent.
The CCEA approved a Rs 105 per quintal hike in wheat MSP to Rs 1,840 for the rabi season of 2018-19 crop year (July-June). The MSP of barley has been increased by Rs 30 per quintal to Rs 1,440 per quintal, while that of gram (chana) by Rs 220 per quintal to Rs 4,620 per quintal.