New Delhi | 31 Dec 2023
Sardar V.M. Singh is the National Chairman of MSP Kisan Morcha and National Convenor of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan. He has played a pivotal role in advocating for farmers’ rights. Formerly an MLA from Uttar Pradesh, he has been a key figure in the nationwide farmers’ movement. Moreover, he focuses on the critical matter of ensuring fair minimum support prices for agricultural produce.
During a candid conversation with The Interview World, Sardar V.M. Singh sheds light on the pressing concerns faced by farmers. Moreover, he proposes practical solutions to address these issues. The following excerpts provide insights into the discussion.
Q: What’s the role of farmers in governance?
A: Farmers play a limited role in the current political scenario. They elect their leaders, cast their votes, return home, and then wait for five years, often filled with regret. This has been the pattern since the country gained independence. However, we envision an active role for farmers in governance, where they participate directly in the Parliament or Vidhan Sabhas.
To achieve this, we advocate for the reservation of seats specifically for farmers in these legislative bodies. Our proposal is a reasonable 10%, considering that they constitute approximately 50% of the population. This reservation, we believe, is crucial for empowering farmers who have, over time, witnessed a decline in their socio-economic status.
Primarily, the concept of reservation aimed at uplifting the downtrodden. While progress has been made over the years, there is a new challenge. Farmers, who were the epitome of excellence in agriculture, are now facing a decline. Today, their children are reluctant to continue farming, opting instead to sell their lands and pursue opportunities abroad.
In this context, providing reservation for them becomes imperative. By doing so, we not only acknowledge their contribution but also pave the way for the next generation to lead. These young individuals are choosing alternative paths, such as seeking education and employment opportunities overseas. Therefore, by ensuring reservations for farmers, we open avenues for their children. They can receive education, secure good jobs, and potentially enter politics to contribute to what they believe constitutes effective governance.
Q: Do you believe that the minimum support price (MSP) is the sole pathway to the prosperity of Indian farmers? Could you elaborate on the objectives of the movement, detailing its potential impact and your plans for advancing its cause?
A: The MSP guarantee for farmers is a crucial aspect that we emphasized during our discussion with Rajnath Singh in Delhi. It is imperative to extend the MSP guarantee to farmers. Because 80% of India’s farmers are dependent on milk production and often lack substantial land, typically not exceeding 2-3 acres.
This issue is a cause for concern. Addressing it involves implementing MSP for various agricultural products, including grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk. While it may not be feasible to provide the full 60% initially, any progress in this direction would be beneficial. Ultimately, establishing a secure MSP for farmers can help improve their living conditions.
Considering the support for industries, where commodities like sugar have a fixed MSP, a similar approach can work for farmers. The existing system ensures that no one can purchase sugar for less than Rs. 33. This highlights the concept of a minimum sale price rather than just a minimum support price.
To further protect the interests of both farmers and consumers, we recommend establishing an MRP for agricultural products. Currently, middlemen are profiting excessively, necessitating government intervention to regulate and minimize such exploitation. As the backbone of our nation, farmers contribute significantly to its growth and development. Therefore, the government needs to address their challenges.
Despite being a significant voting bloc, farmers continue to face difficulties, with distress leading to tragic outcomes such as suicides. A more comprehensive and supportive approach from the government is imperative to ensure the well-being of our farmers. This will equally uplift the agricultural sector as a whole.
Q: You’ve discussed the Indian Agriculture Service and its potential to revolutionize the landscape of Indian agriculture. How do you envision its transformative impact?
A: The Indian Agriculture Service has the potential to transform the nation significantly. Currently, individuals, such as district magistrates, enter a district with administrative experience. They progress through various posts, including different sectors like industry, health, and irrigation. However, when these individuals assume the role of secretary, they find themselves responsible for agricultural matters without prior experience.
A crucial consideration is the establishment of an Indian Agriculture Service alongside an Indian Agriculture Planning Commission. Instead of focusing on hypothetical concerns about additional expenses, it is more prudent to strategize and plan effectively. The existing narrative often revolves around fluctuations in crop yields, prompting the question of whether there is a logical basis for these assertions.
One proposed solution is for the government to provide an undertaking without the need to purchase anything outright. By ensuring an MSP, the government can effectively address the concerns of farmers and maintain stability in the agricultural sector. This approach eliminates the necessity for direct government purchases while still supporting farmers.
Q: Do you envision Indian youth in agriculture?
A: Why would the younger generation choose agriculture unless it proves to be profitable and financially rewarding? My father emphasized the importance of entering the agricultural sector, and we followed his advice.
Now, as they discuss and analyse, the younger generation comprehends the situation, and it’s hard to argue with their perspective. It all comes down to a deal – if the prospects of farming are not promising, why should they invest in it? The provision of MSP can make a significant difference. Offering a guaranteed MSP not only incentivizes the youth to return to farming but also ensures a sustainable livelihood. Unfortunately, at present, the lack of such support means we are struggling to make a decent living.