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TMC Procures Paddy at Less Than Recommended MSP

As per the Swaminathan Commission’s formula, MSP of paddy should be Rs 2,866 per quintal while the West Bengal government purchases it for Rs 2,203/quintal.
TMC Procures Paddy at Less Than Recommended MSP

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Kolkata: Rajib Shyam (39), a paddy cultivator from Galsi, the heart of West Bengal’s corn basket district of Burdwan, is “forced” to sell his produce to middlemen.

“The government buys paddy from us only on paper; we are forced to sell it to the ruling party’s [TMC] middlemen at very low prices,” rues Shyam, who barely manages to sell the paddy cultivated on his 16 bighas. 

“The middlemen enjoy the privileges,” he tells Newsclick while ploughing his tractor.

The increase in the government procurement rate from Rs 2,040 per quintal to Rs 2,203/quintal is “too less” to cover Shyam’s input costs and make a profit. “Only a procurement rate of Rs 2,800 will cover my input costs and earn some profit. Fuel, fertilisers and seeds are very costly. The government rate is too less to cover the costs even if the harvest is good,” he says.

According to him, only 20% of farmers are able to sell their produce at government-designated centres. “The rest of them sell it to middlemen, who rule the mandis by flaunting their close ties with the ruling party. They purchase paddy at Rs 900-Rs 1,000 per 60 kg and sell it at the government rate to reap profit at our expense,” he alleges.

“During the Left Front’s rule, self-help groups (SHGs) collected paddy from farmers at government rates,” recalls Shyam, who has no other income source and struggles to sustain his family of eight.

The TMC government, which boasted of giving high minimum support price (MSP) to paddy cultivators, has fallen short of their expectations. The minuscule increase in the procurement price has angered farmers and the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which has accused the Mamata Banerjee government of following the BJP government’s tactic and bypassing the Swaminathan Commission’s MSP formula. 

On paper, more than 1,000 camps and around 50 mobile centralised procurement centres are organised in remote locations in all the paddy-producing blocks by engaging different Sanghas and Mahasanghas of SHGs.

However, most SHGS are dormant, with middlemen entering the business through a roundabout route to procure paddy.

“Farmers are forced to sell paddy for Rs 1,100-Rs 1,200 per quintal. Only few farmers with proximity to the ruling party are given tokens for bringing paddy to the market,” state AIKS secretary Amal Halder tells Newsclick. “Otherwise, most tokens are given to middlemen.”

Only farmers who can pay hefty sums (tola) to panchayats can sell paddy at the government rate, triggering distress selling, he alleges.

AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah finds it “despicable” that the TMC, which supported the farmers’ movement, refuses to pay MSP at C2+50% rate and only A2+FL (family labour) price.”

A2+FL is the total input cost + family labour cost while C2 is A2+FL + rent, etc.

The government excludes the land rent from the FL price. For example, the FL price is Rs 2,040-Rs 2,183. If the land rent is included, the price becomes Rs 2,866. The procurement price of Rs 2,203 is not the MSP but the FL price according to rates floated by the Centre. As per the Commission, the MSP should be Rs 1,911 plus 50% of the amount, which adds up to Rs 2,866.5 per quintal. Therefore, the TMC government is paying paddy cultivators Rs 683.5 less per quintal.

“The BJP government, which pays an MSP of Rs 2,183/quintal, had promised to pay MSP as per the Commission’s formula before coming to power,” he adds. “Therefore, the CACP (Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices) price is always less than the actual MSP. We will not agree to the government recommendation as only three out of four elements are calculated in the CACP price.”

The AIKS is “against the hoodwinking of farmers. Crores of them are being duped. In Bengal, middlemen bring paddy to the Central processing centres. We will gherao the state capitals and demand our rights,” he says.

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