For an urbane news consumer, the acronym MSP has suddenly become a common word, at least since November 19 when hours after the announcement by the Prime Minister to repeal the three contentious farm laws, the agitating farmers said that they will not stop till minimum support price (MSP) gets legal backing.


MSP is the price that the government declares in advance and pays at the time of procurement of crops from the farmers at the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), popular as Mandis. The concept is derived from the fact that the farmers should not suffer losses owing to lesser rates in the open market.


The demand by the agitating farmers is that the government should give a legal status to MSP - the three farm laws did not mention this - wherein even if it is a private trader purchasing from the farmer, the produce gets rates on par with MSP or above. Paying the farmer below the MSP would attract legal punishment.


The farmers under the aegis of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) have been agitating for the repeal of the three laws - passed by the Parliament last year - and also demanding legalisation of MSP for all crops.


Currently, the government provides MSP majorly to rice and wheat even though there are 21 other crops in the list.


An CVoter-IANS snap poll across India was conducted to find out what ordinary Indians think about the demand by farm leaders that the Parliament must pass a new law providing legal guarantee to MSP.


More than 61 per cent respondents seemed to agree with the demand for legally guaranteed MSP, with just 21 per cent opposing it. 


Expectedly, a higher share of opposition voters supported this demand as compared to NDA voters. But more than 54 per cent of NDA supporters also agreed with the demand.


The respondents were then asked a related question as to if they would agree with a similar demand made by the other farmers for legally guaranteed MSP on food items like milk, fruits, vegetables, eggs, chicken etc. Close to 70 per cent of the respondents made it clear that they would agree with this demand if it came up. Over 63 per cent of the NDA supporters also agreed with this hypothetical demand.


All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) General Secretary Hannan Mollah, who is also one of the prominent leaders of the SKM, said the MSP demand is very valid, and it is to ensure that not just a bunch of the farmers, but all of them benefit. 


"We agree that the government cannot buy 100 per cent of the crops. But whatever price the government declares under MSP, all farmers should get it, and the law should be equal for all farmers across India. Only 15 per cent farmers, mostly those from Punjab and Haryana, get the benefit of MSP as most procurements happen there. The remaining 85 per cent are forced to sell their produce at a price much below the MSP," Mollah said.


He gave an example of how in Uttar Pradesh, paddy is being sold at Rs 1,100 per quintal as against Rs 1,970 per quintal under MSP. 


"How much do farmers continue to lose? If tomorrow a law regarding this becomes a reality, but farmers continue to be exploited, what happens? If any farmer is offered a lower price, he will go to the court," he said.


But not all farmers are game with this kind of measures. Speaking to mediapersons earlier in the day, Shetkari Sanghatana leader Anil Ghanwat -- one of the three members of the Supreme Court appointed committee to look into the farm laws issue -- had criticised SKM's demand to legalise MSP.


"MSP is not the answer, it can never be. Farmers need to diversify. Look at the progressive farmers in Maharashtra -- they are into dairy, fisheries, poultry and orchards," he had said.


Mollah countered Ghanwat by citing an example from Himachal Pradesh where apple farmers were allegedly cheated by the Adani group which paid them less compared to last year. 


"What do the farmers do? They are forced to sell their produce at lesser price," Mollah said.

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