Monday, 27 March 2023 17:41

Talking point on MSP - Denial of MSP- The Mode of Corporate Expropriation

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 ‘Legally guaranteed minimum support price at C2+50%’ as recommended by the M S Swaminathan chaired National Commission for Farmers has become a household demand of the peasantry across the country today-thanks to the prolonged and massive united struggles of the peasantry during the last two and a half decades especially in the context of unending indebtedness and peasant suicide. Thus, the united peasant movement has succeeded to bring the agrarian question at all India level.  No political party can ignore the agrarian crisis now without facing the brunt of peasant anger.

In the neo-liberal period of reforms, on the one side, the cost of agricultural production is sky rocketing with unbridled rise in the price of all inputs including seed, fertilizer, electricity, diesel, water, transportation and land rent. On the other side, the price of agricultural produces across the crops in general does not meet the cost of production; thus making farming a loss-making occupation. This along with inflation and escalating cost of living are the reason for the current acute agrarian crisis and the pauperization of the peasantry.

The peasant households - especially the small and middle peasants and the agricultural workers - are pushed to perpetual indebtedness and also to suicide across the country. Thus losing cattle and agricultural land, they are forced to join the rank of migrant workers whose number is swelling day by day. As per the latest data, the population of the migrant workers has crossed 23 crore- has become the single largest size section in India due to the acute agrarian crisis. This phenomenon shall be conceived in the perspective of pauperization of the peasantry under capitalism that is explained well by Marx and Engels in Communist Manifesto. The pauperization has become an issue of life and death for the peasantry, across India.

The genesis of the agrarian crisis can be traced back to the colonial period, with the "ascendancy of imperialism". The big bourgeois and big landlord classes that collaborated with imperialism had emerged as the ruling class of India. This ruling class alliance failed to carry forward agrarian reforms in a meaningful way. With the collapse of the dirigisme regime and introduction of neoliberal policies, the clout of the International Finance Capital (IFC) became hegemonic and domestic Monopoly Capital (MC) are increasingly getting integrated with it. The IFC-MC combine has unleashed a virulent primitive accumulation in agriculture.

Even after 75th years of political independence, still the land concentration does exist in different degrees across the country. As per the 5th National Family Health Surveys (NFHS), in 2019-21, the households with more than 30 hectares of land -only 0.3% of rural households- accounted for over 26% of land.  The top 20% households owned 82% of the agricultural land while the bottom 47.8%of rural households did not own any agricultural land. The land concentration as well as the landlessness are increasing in the context of the neo-liberal reforms and reverse land reforms – the small and middle land owners losing land and the rich and capitalist classes accrue more land- is happening in the countryside. Along with that, the acquisition of land for large industrial, commercial and infrastructure projects also force increasing landlessness among the small and middle landholders.

The denial of remunerative prices to the peasantry serves the interests of the finance capital, the large trader and industrial classes and their intermediaries especially in the agro based industrial and trade sectors. The corporate forces are destined to procure agricultural produce at the cheapest available rate as the raw material for industrial processing and related commercial food and consumer commodity trade. This is the major contradiction between the peasantry and the corporate forces under capitalism.

Studies conducted across the world reveal that only 10% or below of the value of the consumer commodities produced using the primary farm produces reach back to the primary producers through the procurement price. The surplus thus created is shared among the international finance capital, large-scale processors, their intermediaries, transporters, retail traders and also as tax to the governments and as advertisement income to the corporate media houses. Hence the enemy classes of the peasantry that constitutes the network for expropriation of the surplus have common interest in denying the remunerative price to the peasantry.

Let us consider few case studies. The coffee is the second most profitable commodity traded in the global market after crude oil. As part of the neo-liberal reforms introduced in India in 1991, the Coffee Board left the procurement market in 1997, thus opening the door wide to the private traders including multinational companies. The average price in the procurement operation under the coffee board was Rs. 60/ kg for green beans. This price increased to the range of Rs.90- 120/kg when the private companies entered the market thus making the coffee farmers happy as they thought the neo-liberal reforms brought them prosperity. However, within two years, by 1999, the price of one kilogram coffee green beans started declining drastically and stagnated at Rs. 24/kg which remained so till 2007. The annual loss suffered by coffee farmers in the district Wayanad- in the coffee belt region alone was of around Rs.600 crore.

The coffee farmers faced severe miseries and got trapped in insurmountable debts, which ignited a spate of peasant suicides in Wayanad – more than 3000- in the period of 1999-2007. On the other side the coffee crisis became a boon to the corporate forces. When the price of green bean coffee crashed to Rs 24/kg, the price of instant coffee powder increased to the range of Rs. 900-1400/kg comparing to the equivalent price of Rs.450-900/kg in 1997-99 period. Thus, the coffee crisis was an opportunity for windfall gain and profiteering for the corporate forces. The reason is the IFC-MC combine wields monopoly ownership on the value addition sectors- the processing industry and the branded consumer market-of specialty coffee across the world. The coffee farmers have no option but to sell their produce to the industrial processors through their intermediaries at the price decided by the market that is controlled by the IFC-MC combine. 

The IFC-MC combine influences the price of the raw material in each and every sector.Let us consider the plight of paddy farmers. The Union Government led by NDA has not agreed to provide MSP as recommended by the National Framers Commission headed by M S Swaminathan at C2+50% formula. Moreover, the MSP of Rs.2040 per quintal for the year 2022-23 as announced by the Government is not ensured to all the paddy farmers across the country since there is no system for procurement. For example, the farmers in the Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, eastern part of Uttar Pradesh are forced to sell their paddy at the range of Rs. 800- 1200 per quintal. Considering an average production of only 12 quintals per acre the total loss is to the tune of Rs.9600-14400 per acre. The LDF Government in Kerala has been providing the highest rate for paddy procurement in India at Rs.2820 per quintal. Comparing to the rate of Kerala the loss accrued by the farmers in Jharkhand-Bihar-West Bengal- Easter UP region is in the tune of Rs.19200 – 24000 per acre. When the farmers are paid Rs.8-12 per kg for paddy, the rice is sold in the open market in the range of Rs.28 to 60 per kg as per the grading and quality- shows how the paddy farmers are looted by the market forces.

The potato farmers are suffering very severe crisis and as part of protest, farmers have heaped potato on the roads in Maharashtra, Bihar and West Bengal. The price has come down to Rs.2-6 per kg for potato while in southern states, the whole sale commodity price is Rs. 32 per kg and the retail price is in the tune of Rs.38-42 per kg.  See the huge profit amassed by the capitalist classes. The onion farmers in Maharashtra gets Rs. 2 to Rs. 4 per kg while the commodity wholesale price of onion is Rs. 50 and retail price range from Rs.58 to Rs.64. Recently news agency PTI reported an onion framer from Maharashtra Solapur get Rs.2.49 as profit after selling 512 kg of onion.  On concrete analysis of each crop, we shall see, this is the same plight for all crops whether it is milk, wheat, sugar cane, coconut, rubber, tea, cotton or vegetables and fruits.

The IFC-MC combine and its cronies including Adani, Ambani and TATA control the agricultural produce trade,expropriate as well as influence the peasantry to shift to cash crop production and thus endanger the food security of the people. The steepreduction in the agriculture income along with unbridled inflation ruins the purchasing capacity of the toiling masses and pushes them towards poverty and starvation.  81.4 crore people - 67% of the population – depends on free ration in India and the country has fallen from 56th rank in 2014 to 107th rank in 2021 in the Global Poverty Index under the eight years of ModiRule indicates the degree of pauperisation of the people and expropriation by the corporate forces.

The BJP and RSS combine has capitulated the Indian economy for the profiteering of the finance capital and its cronies and facilitating brutal exploitation of the peasantry and the working class by denying them legally guaranteed minimum support price and minimum wage. The Modi Government stands for the Corporatisation of Agriculture and push the people towards utter poverty, price rise, unemployment, landlessness, pauperization and endless miseries. RSS-BJP combine which is fully surrendered to the International Finance Capital and monopoly capitalist forces are politically introducing this Corporatisation of Indian economy as making of “Hindu Rashtra” in order to promote hatred and divide the people on religious lines and facilitate further corporate expropriation of the peasantry and the working class. Only the worker-peasant alliance can fight this divisive politics and save democracy, federalism and secularism. For that we shall advance the struggle and up to the village / town level and rally the producing classes on the fight for attaining their right to live a life free from corporate exploitation.

It is possible to end the corporatisation of agriculture through alternative polices. Crop wise mobilization and advancing towards establishment of agro processing industries -for both inputs and outputs- and marketing facilities under the collective ownership of peasant social co-operatives are essential tasks ahead of the peasantry in this regard.The Union Government and the State Governments shall be enforced to promote the peasantry to develop crop wise producer cooperatives to gather collective strength and tactically   advance towards modernization of petty production in to large scale production without which the petty producers cannot sustain and overcome the corporate exploitation and the resultant pauperization, being intensified day by day.  This helps to take the advantage of scale of production by facilitating input supply, collective cultivation, procurement, storage and wear housing, processing, value addition, marketing and research and development and ultimately sharing of the surplus with the rationale of ensuring not below than 30% of the value of the consumer commodities as Fair Remunerative Price-FRP- to the primary producers. The Union Government and state governments shall make enactment for guaranteed MSP based on the principle of surplus sharing. Only with such Left and Democratic alternative policies we can overcome the acute agrarian crisis being intensified due to the neo-liberal reforms.

 This is the context that gives supreme political relevance to the combined combat by the worker-peasant alliance across the country and its epitome- the ever-largest Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh Rally in independent India scheduled on 5th April 2023 at New Delhi. The first Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh Rally on 5th September 2018 had encouraged the peasantry and the working class to come up and build extensive unity. The emergence of Samyukta Kisan Morcha and the active role of the joint platform of trade unions in support of the year long farmers struggle at the borders of Delhi forced the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tender public apology and repeal the 3 pro-corporate Farm Acts.

Enough is enough. There cannot be any further expropriation of the peasantry. We shall proceed to build a new India that belongs to the people. The 5th April 2023 Rally will declare enduring struggles to end the expropriation of the peasants and workers by the corporate forces, facilitate alternative development path for the toiling people and advance towards a new India free from agrarian distress, hunger, unemployment, inequality, violence, hatred, patriarchy and authoritarianism.

Legally Guaranteed MSP with Assured Procurement Is Our Right - We shall achieve that!

Come and Join Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally en masse!!

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