Fact-finding missions, led by civil society groups and farmers' organisations, have identified unremunerative prices, non-receipt of crop insurance payments and demonetisation as the key issues that led to farmers' suicides and recent protests in Madhya Pradesh.
Back from Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh (MP), where seven farmers were allegedly killed in police firing on June 6, the representatives of organisations, including Swaraj Abhiyan, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and Bandhua Mukti Morcha, said that the government's inaction fuelled the crisis.
"In spite of MP reporting the highest agricultural growth in the country and winning prizes, unremunerative and downward spiralling prices of all agricultural produce seem to have lead to widespread discontent. The non-fulfilment of the ruling BJP's manifesto promise of 50 per cent profit above the cost price, compounded with the slowdown of the purchasing power of traders in mandis due to demonetisation, completed the cycle of despair, disillusionment and discontent, the NAPM said in a statement.
Farmers' organisation All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which also sent a team to Mandsaur, said that the price crash had caused acute distress in the region. "The prices of most crops are about 60 per cent lower than the prices last year. Faulty policies like import of wheat and pulses while there was a good harvest here led to the fall in prices. Soybean, which fetched Rs 5,000-6,000 a quintal last year, is getting only around Rs 2,400 a quintal now. Channa, which fetched Rs 9,000-10,000 a quintal, is getting only Rs 4,000," said AIKS. While the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat is Rs 1,625 per quintal, the market price that the farmer gets is Rs 1,200, the organisation points out.
The groups said that extreme bureaucracy at mandis and the looming threat of disentitlement (compulsory registration of seller-farmers only through Aadhar; curtailing ration under the PDS if sales above 50 quintals are made, and 50 per cent payment through a bank, which first deducts all loans) also led to farmers' distress.
The groups have asked the Madhya Pradesh government to immediately ensure remunerative pricing for all the crops grown in the state and also guarantee the purchase through market stabilisation funds and other tools.
They think that a one-time waiver of all loans, coupled with remunerative prices, will pull the farmers out of the vicious cycle of debt and death.
The NAPM delegation included civil society activists Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh, Dr Sunilam and Yogendra Yadav. The AIKS team included Hannan Mollah, Amra Ram, K. Somaprasad and Vijoo Krishnan.