Cong questions govt's intent of helping farmers, wants MSP to be 'legally-binding'

New Delhi, Jun 2 (PTI) Questioning the government's intention of helping farmers, the Congress Tuesday said if they don't get the promised Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's aim of doubling their income by 2022 will remain a 'pipe dream'.

The party also termed 'too little' the increase in MSP for various crops, announced by the government on Monday, claiming it will not help farmers tide over the crisis inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress leader Sunil Jakhar claimed a majority of farm produce is purchased in the open market at rates much lower than the Minimum Support Price (MSP) declared by the government.

He urged the prime minister to make MSP a 'legally-binding right' of farmers to ensure that they get the right and remunerative prices for their produce.

The Congress leader also said that farmers have been left to fend for themselves as the government has done 'too little' for them so far and even the stimulus package of Rs 20-lakh crore has 'nothing for them' in it.

'The intention of the government is doubtful. If it wants to help the farmer, it should give him the due price for his farm produce. The increase in MSP by the government from time to time is just a fraud on the farmers,' he said.

'If the MSP is declared and the farmer does not get it, the prime minister's promise of doubling farmers' income will remain a pipe dream,' he told reporters at a virtual press conference.

The government on Monday raised the MSP of paddy by a marginal Rs 53 per quintal to Rs 1,868 per quintal for the 2020-21 crop year, while the rates for oilseeds, pulses and cereals were hiked substantially.

Among commercial crops, the MSP of cotton was increased by Rs 260 per quintal to Rs 5,515 for the medium staple variety and by Rs 275 per quintal to Rs 5,825 for the long staple variety for the current crop year (July-June).

Jakhar also said on Tuesday that the current exodus of migrant workers to their home states will have an adverse impact on the country's economy, which, he claimed, is already in a bad shape.

He, however, lauded the farmers for a bumber crop this season and said despite the coronavirus pandemic gripping the country, the food basket is full and the prime minister was able to provide free foodgrains to the poor only because of that.

The Punjab Congress chief also accused the government of 'betraying' farmers as it is yet to come out with the CACP (Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices) report on fixing MSPs of various crops.

He said that except for wheat and paddy, which are picked up by government agencies at MSP rates to some extent, a majority of other crops is sold at prices much below the MSP as agencies do not buy them at government rates.

The farmers lose out in the bargain, he said.

Asked if the MSP is a futile exercise, he said, 'Without a proper mechanism to purchase the crops at the MSP by the government, it becomes a futile exercise.' 'The prime minister wants to revive the economy, but what has the farmer got in the Rs 20-lakh crore package announced by him?,' he asked.

'To kickstart the economy,' he said, 'we need money. When you talk about rebooting the economy, you cannot reboot the economy by booting the farmer. You are giving a boot to the farmer and that is what hurts.' Instead of any cash benefit, the prime minister has only given advice to take more credit, he claimed. 'Farmers are already reeling under debt and are committing suicides due to heavy debts.' He urged the prime minister to grant fiscal incentives to farmers and waive their loans.

The Congress leader said cash should be given to farmers to help them come out of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

He called for an immediate grant of Rs 10,000 to each poor family and Rs 7,500 to them for next six months to help them tide over the crisis and help revive demand.

Jakhar claimed that input cost of farmers have risen further during this pandemic as the labour is difficult to find after migrant workers left for their homes.

There is no clarity with this government and it is only doing lip service, he claimed.

Jakhar said he has suggested to his party leadership for organising a march of opposition leaders from Delhi to Bihar's Darbhanga, reminding the people of a young girl who cycled along with her father for 1,200 km to reach home from Gurgaon during the lockdown. PTI SKC TIR TIR