Fulfillment of the Demands of Agitating Indian Farmers means Price Hike in Nepal

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Fulfillment of the Demands of Agitating Indian Farmers means Price Hike in Nepal

March 4: Indian farmers have been protesting since the last three weeks demanding the government to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission to set the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of agricultural products and to allow 50 percent profit of the cost price. Dozens of farmers and security personnel have been injured as the Indian government tried to quell the protest raised by thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other regions who are marching to New Delhi for protest. Farmers say that the protest that started on February 13 will continue until the demand is met. United Kisan Morcha and Kisan Mazdoor Morcha are leading the movement.

If the government implements the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, the farmers will be guaranteed to sell their produce in the government-owned wholesale market or mandi at the specified minimum price. This will double the income of Indian farmers.

The Lok Sabha elections are going to be held in India within the next three months. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is gearing up for his third term. Experts have estimated that the demands of the farmers may be met to some extent as the agitation that broke out at this time has caused embarrassment to the government.

If the Government of India sets the MSP for some agricultural products as suggested by the Swaminathan Report and guarantees that the farmers will be able to sell their produce in the government-owned wholesale markets, it will have an impact on the Nepalese market and consumers as well.

Government of India is currently guaranteeing support prices for certain crops, but it has kept many crops out of it. Farmers have been demanding that minimum prices should be set for all crops.

Agricultural economist Shalikram Bhattarai says that it seems that the Indian government might address some of the demands of the farmers due to the inconvenience caused to the government by the protesting farmers in the run-up to the elections. If that happens, the farmers' products will be sold directly in the government-owned wholesale market or mandi. As a result, the Indian government will start selling such goods at a high price and it will become difficult to import them to Nepal.

“It seems that the price may increase in the Nepali market," said Bhattarai, adding, "At present, Nepali importers buy agricultural products from the open market while importing agricultural products from India. Currently, Indian products are cheaper than domestic products in Nepal. Even if the farmer's movement is only partially successful, the situation may be different.”

According to Indian government’s data, only 6 percent of the total farmers are able to sell their produce at the minimum support price. Because of this, more than 10 farmers commit suicide every day in India, unable to bear the burden of loans taken from banks and financial institutions. To get rid of this situation, the farmers have started a movement demanding MSP.

Farmers have demanded that their loans should be waived, India should quit the World Trade Organization (WTO). They have also put forward demands such as re-implementation of land acquisition law, increasing the compensation currently fixed by the government, implementing a pension program for farmers among others.

Sabnam Sivakoti, spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, says that the impact of the farmers' movement in Nepal will be determined by how the Indian government addresses the demands of the farmers.

“Even if the government meets the demands of the farmers to some extent, the government will purchase agricultural produce at a price higher than the cost price of the farmers. As a result, the price of agricultural produce in India may increase and it may also result in an increase in the prices in the Nepalese market,'' she said, adding that it may also affect imports.

In such a situation, it is important for us to focus on increasing the production in the country rather than importing agricultural products at high prices from neighbouring India.

What is the Swaminathan Report?

Agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan, who is known as the father of Green Revolution in India, is famous as a person who worked for reforms in the agricultural sector. The then Congress government of India formed the National Farmers' Commission in 2004 under his chairmanship. The report of the commission is known by his name.

The commission submitted its report to the Government of India in 2006 after two years. Swaminathan recommended several suggestions in his report focusing on raising the living standard of the farmers. The suggestions include fixing the minimum support price of agricultural produce. Swaminathan recommended that a minimum support price should be set for each crop and that price should be more than 50 percent of the average cost. Swaminathan's report was submitted almost two decades ago, but it has not been implemented.



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