Tamil Nadu Paddy Farmers Suspect ‘Implementation’ of Abolished Farm Laws
Represntational use only.Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Tamil Nadu farmers bear the brunt of unseasonal rains during both sowing and harvesting and procurement issues every year. Paddy sacks get drenched in the absence of proper storage facilities at the direct procurement centre (DPC).
The insufficient and delayed compensation for crop damage through the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) has pushed the farmers further into debt.
The Centre’s decision to fix 12.5% as the maximum share of insurance premium in spite of the quantum of insurance is yet another setback for the farmers.
The continuous thrust on entrusting private players to procure paddy directly from the farmers instead of the government has raised suspicions about the implementation of the withdrawn farm laws in different forms.
PROCUREMENT ISSUES PERTAIN
Paddy procurement continues to be one of the most persistent problems for farmers. The absence of sufficient infrastructure and inordinate delay in procuring and transferring paddy to godowns leave them under stress.
In the second week of October, farmers in Thanjavur district were severely impacted due to the sudden downpour, which drenched the paddy stored for procurement at DPCs. With the onset of monsoon, the farmers are finding it difficult to dry the paddy to ensure the moisture content is within the permitted level.
The farmers have demanded an increase in the limit of moisture content from 17% to 22% but the Centre has increased the upper limit to 19%. They will lose Rs 20.40 for the common variety paddy and Rs 20.60 for the fine variety from the minimum support price (MSP) at 18% moisture content and lose double the amount at 19%.
LOW COMPENSATION AND THE DELAY
The much-celebrated PMFBY, aimed to compensate farmers for crop damages and losses, is plagued with delay. Farmers whose crops were damaged during the Samba harvesting season 2020-21 are yet to receive compensation.
“The disbursal of compensation began on October 11, 2021. But even after one year, it has not been completed. How will the farmer survive this sort of delay?” Senthil Kumar, Thanjavur district president of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), told Newsclick.
A subsidy of only Rs 6,038 per acre for input cost for the damaged paddy saplings was announced against the AIKS demand of Rs 25,000.
“Given the increase in input and labour costs, we demanded a subsidy. But the government announced a subsidy of only 25% of the amount demanded—even that amount hasn’t been paid. Compensation hasn’t even reached areas visited by a Central government team for damage assessment,” Kumar added.
The AIKS has accused private insurance companies of siphoning off the premium paid by the farmers. Alleging lack of transparency in the calculation of premiums for several crops, the AIKS said in a statement: “All the farmers affected by such disasters must be adequately compensated.”
Kumar alleged that while “1.33 lakh farmers paid around Rs 17.94 crore in premium from 856 revenue villages, only Rs 36 lakh was disbursed in seven villages in Thanjavur district alone. If the amount is calculated for all the districts, the profit made by private insurance companies can be estimated”.
The recent statements of the Centre and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) have alarmed the farmers. They depend on the Centre and the state government for paddy procurement with an MSP though the price is much lower than their demand.
“In a recent conference, the FCI secretary questioned why the government should directly procure paddy. He claimed that private companies will procure it efficiently and the Union government will spare only 2% for the process,” Kumar claimed.
The AIKS has alleged that only around 42,55,135 tonnes out of the 1,22,22,463 tonnes of paddy cultivated have been procured. “Of the 70 lakh paddy farmers, only 6,72,791 have sold paddy at the DPCs. A vast majority of the farmers are still outside the government procurement process,” it said in the statement.
The organisation has claimed that such moves to reduce government procurement are a planned strategy to withdraw from the farm sector and indirectly implement the farm laws.
“Though the government claims excess stock in godowns, several farmers are selling paddy at a lower price than the MSP and the country is faring very badly in the global hunger index. This contradiction explains the existing problems, which need to be addressed to the benefit of the farmers and the public,” the statement added.
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