SKM to Launch Plan to Obtain MSP, Loan Waiver at January Convention
Delhi: The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a coalition comprising various farmers’ organisations, is set to convene a pivotal Convention in January next year. This gathering aims to devise a strategic action plan to fulfil their key demands, including implementing a minimum support price (MSP) per the recommendations of the M S Swaminathan Commission.
The demands also encompass a call for a comprehensive loan waiver, alongside staunch opposition to the privatisation of electricity. Additionally, the National Coordination Committee of the Morcha has urged the immediate suspension of Minister of State for Home Affairs, Ajay Mishra Teni. This call follows allegations of his involvement in shielding his son, Ashish Mishra, who stands accused of the tragic killings of four farmers and a journalist in Lakhimpur Kheri.
The constituent organisations of the SKM met at the Harkishan Singh Surjeet Bhawan in the national capital on Friday to discuss its agenda ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
The farmers’ bodies maintained that the Commission on Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP), the central body responsible for announcing MSP for acquiring food grains from farmers, has been employing the wrong methodology for calculating the input costs of seeds, fertiliser, herbicides, pesticides, diesel and harvesting. While CACP has used the “A2 + FL” formula, the farmers have been asking for “C2+ 50%” for just returns on the produce. A2 covers major costs such as fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and diesel, among other costs, and FL implies cost of family labour. C2 refers to comprehensive costs that cover rents and forgone interest on land apart from traditional expenses.
P Krishnaprasad, Finance Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), told NewsClick over the phone that the Punjab unit of the SKM will finalise the place of the convention. Asked if farmers were reconsidering returning to the borders for protesting, he said, “The final decision will be announced at the convention only.”
When asked about the nature of the loan waiver, he said that the Centre may choose a threshold below which all loans are waived off. He said, “We saw a loan waiver under the Left Front government in Kerala where the Debt Relief Commission waived off all loans under Rs 50,000 in 2006. There are many models that can be considered to give relief to farmers. The majority of farmers committed suicides owing to loans and harassment by bank officials. They are not like businessmen who enjoy a lavish lifestyle but become wilful defaulters. They could not repay their loans simply because poor procurement and uncertain weather conditions pushed them into abject poverty. Thus, debt relief and proper MSP are key to farmers’ prosperity.”
Darshan Pal, President, Krantikari Kisan Union, told NewsClick that the farmer organisations want a one-time loan waiver of all kinds and there should not be a threshold of amount or land ownership. “It’s not a new demand. We added three new demands post-suspension of agitation. These comprised loan waiver, pension for farmers, and proper compensation in case of crop damage,” he said, referring to the farmers’ protest on Delhi borders from 2020 to 2021 against three central farm laws.
“We believe that the policies of the government pushed the agrarian sector into crisis, and its subsequent impact was seen on farmers through ever-mounting loans. We want loans from all kinds of banks, personal or private, waived off. It is necessary to free the farmers from the clutches of poverty,” Pal said.
The meeting also witnessed seething criticism of attempts of the central government to introduce the Electricity Amendment Bill, which has seen opposition to eliminating cross-subsidy, among other changes. Cross subsidy allows farmers in rural areas to access cheap electricity. The power employees’ federations have joined the farmers in their struggle and emphasised that the bill would enable mass-scale privatisation of power generation and distribution companies.
Pal added that electricity has become an essential good, and its privatisation will have dangerous repercussions for ordinary people. “The intended bill allows elimination of subsidy to farmers. We saw how the privatisation of health and education sectors impacted common people. Those who will pay will get the power, whereas the people who cannot pay premium prices will have to live in darkness. It cannot be tolerated.”
Further, in its press statement, the Morcha expressed “solidarity with Olympic medal winner Sakshi Malik, who has given up wrestling to protest against the election of close aide of BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh who is accused of sexual harassment of women wrestlers. This brave decision by Sakshi Malik is a slap on the face of the Prime Minister who is protecting the criminals who sexually abused women wrestlers.”
The farmer’s organisations also expressed grave concern about “the growing arrogance of the Modi administration and condemned the unprecedented mass suspension of the opposition members in the Parliament, aimed at decimating democracy.”
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