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  Opinion   Edit  20 Feb 2024  AA Edit | MSP for cash crops a reckless plan, drop it

AA Edit | MSP for cash crops a reckless plan, drop it

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Feb 21, 2024, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Feb 21, 2024, 12:00 am IST

Despite government's conditional offer of MSP for cash crops, farmers persist with their protest, citing concerns over food security

A farmer rests on a highway during their ongoing protest over various demands, including a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for crops, at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu Border, in Patiala district, on Tuesday. (Image: PTI)
 A farmer rests on a highway during their ongoing protest over various demands, including a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for crops, at the Punjab-Haryana Shambhu Border, in Patiala district, on Tuesday. (Image: PTI)

The government’s lack of will to address the issues the agitating farmers have been raising was evident when it offered to introduce minimum support price (MSP) if they shifted to cash crops, such as cotton, pulses and corn, in the fourth round of talks with them. Expectedly, the farmers have rejected the offer and decided to go ahead with their “Delhi Chalo” march.

Ad-hocism was at its best when the Union government made the conditional offer of MSP in the fourth round of talks. The farmers said the offer was not in their interest, and that their demands were something else. They do have a point. In fact, it is not only not in the farmers’ interest but also against the interest of the nation, since its acceptance could have impacted food security. The government would want the farmers to move to the cultivation of crops which would cut down on the use of water but a government that would take into account the global foodgrain scenario and the need to feed a burgeoning population cannot come up with such a suggestion.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised the issue of food security at several international fora, inviting global attention to an impending disaster, calling for a multi-dimensional approach to address it. Global warming and climate change have of late produced an uneven graph when it comes to agricultural production across the globe. Then there are short term factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine which have impacted the production and movement of grains. It is a complex mix, and there are no shortcuts to solutions.  

True, every nation is under pressure regarding availability of water, and India, too, is facing the problem. But the solution cannot be weaning farmers away from cultivation of foodgrains. There are technologies available all over the world which can improve production with optimum usage of water. India’s new friend on the global stage, Israel, has been feted for decades for adopting such models. It would take an effort on the part of the government to prod the farming community into shifting to such methods; ad-hocism cannot produce desired results. A record harvest in one year, or for that matter, many years, cannot be the reason for the government to think of short term approaches to issues such as food security.

The government has been testing the nerves of the farmers by resorting to administrative measures to stop them from holding a march to the nation’s capital. This is unacceptable. Farmers are one of the four castes the Prime Minister has newly discovered; the finance minister is never at a loss of words when referring to annadatas. From doubling the revenue of farmers by 2022 to the promotion of zero-budget farming, the NDA government has made more than ample promises for the welfare of the community. It must now stop paying lip service to farmers and instead make an honest attempt to address their concerns. When faced with real issues, diversionary tactics are unlikely to work out.

Tags: farmers protest 2.0, minimum support price (msp), delhi chalo march