The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) began a week-long protest—Kisan Sangharsh Mukti Saptah—on 12 February against the anti-farmer Union Budget 2018-19.
Farmers and agricultural labourers took to the streets in different parts of the country to protest against the false claims made by the Centre in the budget, especially regarding the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
“Exposing the jumla (gimmicks) of the BJP-led NDA government, farmers across the country are protesting against the Union Budget and anti-farmer policies of the government,” said P Krishnaprasad, finance secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), speaking to Newsclick.
“From February 12 to 19, farmers are gathering in every taluk and district headquarters all over the country.”
He said the Centre had failed to fulfil its earlier promises, including MSP at 50% higher than the cost of production, debt relief, insurance and procurement of crops.
“While the Centre has announced the MSP, in fact, there is no financial allocation for it in the budget,” he said.
“Farmers are also burning copies of the Union Budget.”
In the Budget 2018, finance minister Arun Jaitley had made an announcement that to ensure the MSP of Kharif crops at 50% higher than the cost of production, their actual input costs (A2) will be added to the unpaid value of the family labour (FL) costs. But Jaitley’s new formula has just sidelined the more ambitious formula of farm scientist MS Swaminathan.
Swaminathan’s formula ensures a comprehensive cost (C2) which includes imputed rent and interest on land and capital plus 50% profit.
Attacking the government for manipulating the input cost figures while fixing the MSP, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan had earlier said that the new MSP rates using A2+FL as input cost would hurt farmers.
“There is a huge difference in the earnings of farmers in Mr Jaitley’s formula and Swaminathan’s formula. Assuming that every farmer receives the MSP, farmers’ annual income would have increased by 15% to 20% if the C2 cost had been considered,” Yadav had told IANS.
According to AIKSCC leaders, in an RTI reply on January 19, the government had said that MSP with 1.5 times the input cost was not possible. But in the next few days, the government announced that it was going to give MSP at 1.5 times the input cost.
“Though the government is saying that they have implemented the Swaminathan formula of MSP, they actually have not. The government has simply deceived the farmers and is again making false promises,” Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangthan told Newsclick.
On 6 February, the AIKSCC—an umbrella body of more than 150 farmers’ organisations—said the government has come up with a new definition for the MSP, while making no change in the old MSP.
Terming the announcement of 50% profit over the input cost for agricultural commodities a “jumla” and “big fraud”, the AIKSCC had said the Union Budget would benefit only corporates.
“This budget is made only to appease the international finance organisations at the expense of the common people,” AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah had told the press.
“At present, 1% of corporate houses in India control 73% of the income generated over the past four years as compared to 49% under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government,” he said.
AIKSCC convener VM Singh said the government did not intend to give a higher price to farmers for their crop production as it had not made any budgetary allocation.
“This government has manipulated the figures so the input cost has gone down when actually it has increased. It is just beating the drum for the hike in the MSP but no farmer is going to benefit. This is a government of jumlas,” he said.
The AIKSCC leaders had said the BJP had forgotten its poll promise of 1.5 times return on the input cost since it had come to power. But it was left with no other option than to declare it during this budget due to the recent countrywide protests by farmers over rural distress, they said.
Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan had told IANS that the budget was made keeping privatisation in mind, which would hurt not just farmers but Dalits and tribals as well.
“The thrust on infrastructure building, such as roads in the farm and rural sector will help only corporates. The government has ignored Dalits, tribals, farmers and labourers in the budget,” Patkar said.