Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Farmers getting ready for a ‘Do or die’ battle on fair price

Representatives of farmers in Andhra Pradesh are meeting in Hyderabad on Monday, May 9 to finalize an action plan as part of their ‘do or die’ battle for getting a fair price for paddy.

Disclosing this at a media conference here today, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan and leaders of independent farmers’ organizations said that farmers would join hands transcending their affiliation to parties and castes, regions and crops.

Dr. JP recalled that despite repeated representations to all those in power from the Prime Minister downwards for the last seven months, precious little has been done to rescue the farmer from the miserable plight he finds himself in. The real price of food grains is actually falling, whereas general inflation is 9% in the country. The minimum support price (MSP) of paddy is Rs.1030 per quintal, and this barely meets the costs of cultivation of owner-farmers, and with MSP tenants incur cash losses. The crisis in the farm sector has now accentuated with the farmer not getting even the MSP for paddy anywhere in Andhra Pradesh.

Dr. JP said that the State Government could ensure the MSP for paddy by utilizing provisions under the Essential Commodities Act. Yet, it has become a mute spectator to millers playing football with farmers. The Union Government ought to have permitted rice exports considering that the country has double the stocks required for food security, that bumper harvests are flowing into the market and food grains are commanding a good price the world over because of crop failures in countries like Russia and China. Yet, it would not allow exports on the specious plea of food prices going up. It conveniently ignores that food inflation is the result of an increase in prices of fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meat, and not of food grains.

Dr. JP said the State Government which collected Rs.1500 crore a year by way of rural development cess and VAT could straightway give a bonus of at least Rs.100 a quintal on paddy. The Government of India could canalize exports through State undertakings like the FCI, STC and MMTC and share the profits with farmers.

A long-term solution to farmers’ problems, however, lies in unshackling agriculture from the license-permit raj, Dr. JP said.

Mr. Y. Nagendranath, President of Rytanga Samakhya, said that farmers suffered in the last kharif when they lost crop because of heavy rains and in the rabi now as the yields are going to be record high. Mr. Dasaradharami recalled that the Union Government banned onion exports within five days of their prices shooting up but would not raise its little finger although farmers have been going without the MSP for the last six months. He pointed out that his income from agriculture is less than the wage he pays his laborer and yet he stuck to agriculture since he is good at nothing else. He faulted the Union Government for not raising the MSP since 2008-09, although the cost of production has spurted because of hike in wages, fuel etc. Mr. Balarami Reddy of Medak said that the farmers’ plight is so dire that there are no marital suitors for their children in agriculture.

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