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March of distress: Implement report of Swaminathan Committee, say farmers

Sanjeeb Mukherjee/New Delhi 13 Mar 18 | 12:48 AM

Agriculture scientist and father of the Green Revolution, MS Swaminathan

Thousands of farmers arrived in Mumbai on Monday to press for their demands, which includes giving them land rights and implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report.

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The latter has been one of the consistent demands of most of the farmers and farm activists, since the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised in its 2014 manifesto they would enhance profitability of agriculture, by guaranteeing a 50 per cent more price than the production cost. Here is a look at the key points of the Swaminathan report:

When the committee was formed

In November 18, 2004, the government constituted the National Commission on Farmers (NCF), under the chairmanship of agriculture scientist and father of Green Revolution, M S Swaminathan.

The NCF submitted four reports in December 2004, August 2005, December 2005, and April 2006, respectively. The fifth and final report was submitted on October 4, 2006. 

The reports, which were a comprehensive status paper on Indian agriculture, food and rural sector, provided an elaborate explanation for the distress surrounding farming and ways to come out of it.

Focus of the report

The reports touched a wide gamut of issues that agriculture and food economy faced. These included land reforms, irrigation, credit and insurance, productivity in agriculture, food security, prevention of farmers’ suicides, competitiveness in farming, employment and bio-resources.  Some of the suggestions Swaminathan made on land reforms were distributing surplus and waste land and setting up of a National Land Use Advisory Service to regulate the sale of agriculture land. 

For food security, NCF suggested universal public distribution system (PDS), National Food Guarantee Act, community food and water banks. On preserving bio-diversity, the NCF said traditional right of access to biodiversity should be preserved.

On minimum support price (MSP)

The report, in its chapter on ‘Competitiveness of Farmers’, said MSP should be at least 50 per cent more than the weighted average cost of production. It did not explicitly say which method should be taken for the calculation of this cost. It also said there should be improvement in implementation of MSP and arrangements for MSP is needed for crops other than paddy and wheat. Also, millets and other nutritious cereals should be permanently included in the PDS.

On cost method for determination of MSP

Reports said Swaminathan in his subsequent presentations and submissions to the government clarified that the average weighted cost over which 50 per cent should be guaranteed was comprehensive cost or C2. He later said that in 2017 MSP should be 50 per cent more than the comprehensive cost of production.

2018-19 Budget proposal

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his 2018-19 Budget reiterated the 2014 manifesto promise of 50 per cent more than the cost of produce. He, too, didn't specify in his Budget announcement what cost would be used for this calculation. However, later during his reply to the Budget proposals, Jaitley said that he is made to understand that it would be A2+FL cost (actual paid out cost plus imputed family labour).

Role of states

States have a limited role in determining MSP, as it is fixed by the Central government, under advice from the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices. But, states are free to provide a higher price to farmers through any other mode, including bonus over MSP. 

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