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Friday, June 21, 2024

MSP Most surprising policy

“I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.”

— Andy Warhol

‘Mere Desh ki Dharti Sona Ugle, Ugle Heerey moteee.. mere desh ki dhartee’.  We grew up on this song, and then farmer’s suicides and Lacks of crores being written off every year by state and central governments for decades on were somehow not fitting into the simple thought process techno management equation of mine.

Let me start by saying, I am neither a farmer nor an agriculture expert and not even an economist. Disadvantageous as it may seem, I look at it as a big positive because of writing on a clean slate with no excess baggage or pre conceived biases helps one think clearly.

Yet I am an educated citizen of India. I am an Engineer from an IIT, have been a teacher, a management practitioner and a writer with some experience and I can think and apply my mind. Farming you would agree is not a rocket science. Yet Rocket engineers design the rocket and ultimately send an astronaut to the space and never go up themselves!

I wanted to find out what exactly was wrong and was there a way to move forward? Therefore I decided to become a seeker. I wore my techno manager’s hat and on top of it one borrowed from Mr. Sherlock Homes and started looking around.

First thing I stumbled upon was that a bunch of very highly educated boys and girls who left their well-paying comfortable jobs even in large corporates Like PWC,IBM,TCS, Accenture, E&Y, Lucent, Amazon and like, to start their Agri ventures! Several from IITs, IIMs, London School of Economics, ISB Hyderabad, Kingston university London and other prestigious colleges. This was another bouncer and turned my search upside down!

This young educated lot was turning agriculture business on its head!

First thing I learnt from them was that you do not require a 100 acre land to make money as most think. Many were growing gold in just 5 acres!

So basis this research (across the country) I picked up seventeen entrepreneurs and wrote their success stories and published a book titled “Millionairs – The rural Entrepreneurs new business opportunities” Now selling on Amazon.

The other two things I learnt was that you need to grow what people want and not what you want to grow- smart farming. Demand and supply bro! Second was that Agriculture business is approximately 20-30 % actual farming, tilling and growing and the rest is a huge value chain of logistics, value addition to product, packaging, distribution, advertising, marketing, branding and selling. This is a huge opportunity and this chain exists in the most disorganized fashion and one can enter anywhere to fix the problem and help and also makes a great business sense.  That is what an entrepreneur does in essence.Organic was another new found realization and was again a big business segment almost nascent at this stage. Educated people are doing a lot of value addition and helping the agri sector. Why can’t our grass root farmers learn from them?

The problem is that traditional Farmers do not want to change.

The most startling revelation was that government- now and earlier have been giving more than enough support to agri business.

Another important learning is that I came to know from all these young agripreneurs that the infrastructure- Bijli, sadaak, Pani (Electricity, roads and water) and internet connectivity and mobile connectivity has improved remarkably over the last few years. Lot of improvements happening in Tier2/3 cities and small towns. Metros are saturated in terms of business and living conditions. AQI is horrible in Metros and people can’t even breathe fresh air. Go rural go is written all over the wall.

MSPMinimum Support Price

What is MSP and how did it come into existence? Let me explain by

Demystifying the MSP – Mirage.

 General public- as the sentiment across the world stands today – is of ‘solidarity’ with farmers without understanding the issue. It has become fashionable to criticize the system may be for any reason and mostly for no reason. At the drop of the hat people start saying “We are with you” but ask them for what? And most are clueless supporters. One of the biggest spanners thrown into this agitation by farmers and opposition political parties is Minimum Support Price or MSP which has being doing the rounds. Most hunted and hounded word- but most don’t know why. Thanks to social media and also debates on TV where every Tom, Dick and Harry appears as a visheshagya- meaning domain expert. Let me explain the MSP mirage in simple terms and I am not an expert. Let me explain as a common man to a common man as I have been able to understand.

“MSP started in 1965 when we got wheat under PL 480 (Public Loan 480) from US which was grain surplus and we were short on grains. Jay Jawan and Jai Kissan was an emotional call given by the then PM late Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Government of the day encouraged farmers to grow wheat and Punjab and Haryana were chosen as front runner being a hardworking people fond of farming with a good fertile soil. They were asked to sell their produce only to the Government through designated selling points called  ‘mandi’ and assured a price so that government FCI run go downs got stocks for the PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM to reach out to every person in the country; they were given support price so that grain doesn’t get hoarded by traders to hike the price. Today we are grain surplus and farmers still want to grow wheat and are not ready to move to better selling crops.” To Keep them in high spirits and help them work harder to achieve production goals many other subsidies were given. Fair enough.

Go with the flow and you will swim

Today we are in 2021 and moved on 56 years from 1965 and our godowns are full at the seams with wheat and paddy and yet some farmers want to grow only wheat and want government to buy from them and pay them one and a half times of their cost! ‘Bhai abb Buss Bhee karo.’

To give a simple analogy, let us say there is a Halwai or a shop keeper who had made Jalebis in 1965 when people were fond of Jalebis, and very few made jalebis and took it by the Kilos- and they did. Gradually people got tired of eating Jalebi and now wanted Samosa and not jalebi.

But the Halwai is adamant and says, you have to buy whatever Jalebi I make and pay me one and a half times the cost price giving me 50% profit. Also give me in writing that you will buy it every day!I have been your ‘Jalebi data’ for 50 years, now you got to have my Jalebi, good or bad. ‘Arey Bhai nahin Khanee jalebi mere jalebi data, I have Diabetes!’ Now jalebi data has become an emotional pitch like ‘Anna data’. The nation says ‘Bhai Roti sey peit bhar gaya hai, I want something more too.

Coming back straight to farmers and their business. The governments are bending backwards giving them full respect and their due.

Anna data is getting all the support

Subsidy bill of the government stood at 2.57 lac cr. in 2015-16. Yes you read it right.

The government has allocated nearly Rs 79,600 crore for fertilizer subsidies alone in the 2021-22 Budget. Last year, the actual price of DAP (Delivered at place) was Rs 1,700 per bag, on which the central government was giving a subsidy of Rs 500. The companies were therefore selling the fertiliser to farmers for Rs 1,200 per bag.

PM Kisan Tractor Scheme (Yojana): The Central government has announced up to 50% Subsidy on buying tractors under the PM Kisan Tractor Scheme. If a farmer buys a tractor under the scheme, then he can avail this.

Subsidy on drip irrigation is Maximum of 50- 70%. For one acre drip irrigation if it costs Rs 50 thousand one may pay only 15,000/-.

As a snap shot the broad list of subsidies for farmers in India is as under.

Fertilizer subsidy

Power subsidy

Agricultural Equipment subsidy

Irrigation subsidy

Seed subsidy

Export subsidy

Credit subsidy

Agricultural infrastructure subsidy

Today farm subsidies form about two percent of India’s GDP. Yes 2%.

Mahatma Gandhi said— ‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.’

State governments also give loan wavers and free electricity.

On top of it you pay no income tax! Gazaab. Armed forces pay taxes, senior citizens pay, women pay but ‘Anna data’ a free run!

Government aur public ki Jaan logey kya?

Which business gives you assured 50% profit with no income tax?

Where is this subsidy coming from? From your and my taxes and that includes every serving soldier and senior citizens. Assured MSP s being demanded by these ‘Anna datas’ will financially strangulate the whole nation and that is you and me.

The farmers of these two states who are making so much of noise about MSP need to cross their hearts and ask a question standing in front of a mirror ‘Do you really feel this is correct and possible?’

On top of it you are raping the soil and you want a licence to rape mother earth. ‘Hum Parali Jalayenge’ – We will burn the stubble- you can do what you like.

This is outright anarchy bro, and holding the nation to ransom. If you want to pay no income tax and want everything free then please also put in a word for the uniformed fraternity as they cannot go on strike or Dharna and would rather protect the Red Fort than hoist some obscure flag!

Let me tell you what has happened to the soil courtesy ‘Anna data’

Annihilation of soil

Those days’ ,around end 1960 Chemical fertilizers were the order of the day to pump up production and all farmers went for this in a big way with good incentives. From 1Kg per hectare in 1951, today to get the same productivity they use 133 Kg/hectare and also use pesticides! This has destroyed the soil, and yield is bad for consumption. They have also recently forced the government to allow stubble burning which kills all microbes in the soil. In one gram of soil you have more than 50 types of microbes and in one tea spoon you have more than 8 billion organisms! All these macro and micro soil building creatures are negatively impacted due to Agri-residue burning- they get exterminated! It also chokes the environment and is a major health issue.

 Farmers want to get rid of it and see the immediate gain by burning it and getting their land ready to sow the next crop. They do not understand or appreciate the long term advantage of not burning it and reutilizing the roots back into to the soil and making it decompose- too difficult and full of hassles.

The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”

– Franklin Roosevelt

Aaj paise peid par lagtey hain’ Problem is to find the right peid or tree.

A good business Sense

It is time farmers smell the coffee- too much to ask in literal sense.

Mend your ways, learn new methods to do multi cropping, sow what is required- Old saying ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’.

There is a lot of scope in Mushroom, Fish, Bamboo and organic farming. Go explore and don’t keep beating your chest to stoke the government and the people. You are in a noble profession and stay noble- public perception and emotions are changing.

“Agriculture is the noblest of all alchemy; for it turns earth, and even manure, into gold, conferring upon its cultivator the additional reward of health.” — Paul Chatfield.

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