Even as the Tamil Nadu farmers are preparing for the Samba harvest that begins on December 15, non-payment for paddy procured by the government in the Kuruvai season (October 1 to December 15) has put them in a spot.
Demanding that the payments be made and the delays in procurement be avoided, the Tamil Nadu farmers are scheduled to hold a protest on December 17. “We are going to stage a protest on December 17 in Chennai asking for an increase in MSP besides demanding that delays be avoided in procurement,” said PR Pandian, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Cauvery Farmers Association.
Alleging that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) is not on par with those provided in other states, the Tamil Nadu peasants want the state government to match the MSP that of those provided in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan where the incentives are ₹750 and ₹525 respectively.
They also point to the scenario in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, non-BJP ruled states, where the state government’s incentive range between ₹260 to ₹525 for paddy.
The incentives given by these states, which are a part of the contribution regardless of the Centre’s fixed sum, is doled out with no difference between the grades of paddy. On the contrary, Tamil Nadu pays its farmers a meagre ₹50 for the common grade and ₹70 for ‘A’ grade variety of the crop.
The Central government pays ₹1,815 per quintal for common grade variety of paddy and ₹1,835 for the ‘A’ grade variety if the harvest is cultivated on 20 lakh acres of land each. When the state government’s incentive of ₹50 and ₹70 are added to them, the farmers get ₹1,865 and ₹1,905 per quintal, respectively.
But Chhattisgarh farmers earn more than ₹2,500 per quintal when the contributions of the Centre and the state are added up.
The Tamil Nadu government, through its Civil Supplies Corporation (TNCSC), began the practice of procuring paddy in the seasons of Kuruvai and Samba directly from the farmers in 1973. This practice remained in place until 2002 when the state took to following the Centre’s model of providing MSP to the farmers.
On account of the change in methodology, the TNCSC started sending the paddy procured directly from farmers to the Central pool before buying back the same for ₹2 per kilo for free distribution through the Public Distribution System (PDS).
To ensure continuity in practice, the Centre started disbursing money to the TNCSC in advance to help the state corporation pay the farmers beforehand during the harvest season.
“As the Centre is not disbursing the funds on time, the state government is not able to pay the farmers which, in turn, has led to a financial crisis. We’ve also heard that the Centre is trying to get rid of the paddy procurement process,” said Pandian.
He further added that this delay in payment forced the farmers to sell their harvest to private players, who pay more than the state government, most times.
They usually procure paddy depending on the degree of demand for a particular variety. For instance, if ‘A’ grade variety of the harvest is in higher demand, the farmers tend to get more money which could go as high as ₹2,000 as compared to the government’s ₹1,905 pay.
“The delay will also affect the procurement during Samba harvest. When Pongal is nearing, the farmers are highly dependent on the advance paid by the government” Pandian said.
According to the National Commission on Farmers (NCF), the Centre should give at least 50 percent more than the production cost, said Cauvery Dhanapal, president, Federation of Tamil Nadu Farmers Association.
“The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University says that ₹22 is being spent by a farmer to produce one kilo of paddy. So, if he produces 100 kilos, which amounts to one quintal, he spends about ₹2,200. And if the 50 percent production cost is added to it, it works to ₹3,300,” he said.
“If the Centre pays on the basis of the NCF recommendation, the MSP for per quintal of paddy will be ₹3,300. But our demand is only ₹3,000. However, the government is not ready to hear our plea. Then, how can we expect the state government to increase its incentive price from ₹70 to ₹300?” Dhanapal questioned.
Speaking to The Federal, a senior official of the TNCSC said that paddy procurement is done smoothly and that the farmers are paid online.
“There is no delay in the procurement. We have opened district procurement centres wherever needed. If farmers need more such centres, they can approach the district collectors. We are procuring whatever quantity of paddy is produced. However, the decision of increasing the incentives has to be taken by the state government and we have no say in it,” the official said.