Shri Rajiv Gauba
Union Cabinet Secretary
Dear Shri Gauba,
I understand that the government has just decided to confer Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest award on Dr M S Swaminathan, the eminent agricultural scientist, whose contribution to agricultural development in India was singularly outstanding. I welcome it wholeheartedly.
Dr Swaminathan is remembered by the farming community for his close involvement in the advances made in agriculture and, in particular, in opening the eyes of the country to the direct and indirect costs incurred by the farmers and the need to factor in those costs in determining crop-wise Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) to render agricultural operations viable and remunerative. The MSP, as recommended by the Swaminathan Committee, is based on 150% of the actual costs incurred by the farmer during a crop season plus the imputed value of farm labour employed plus the imputed value of the land used in raising a given crop.
The rationale of Dr Swaminathan Committee’s approach is clear. An MSP based on that approach will ensure that there is no migration from agriculture to non-farming activities and there is no diversion of land under agriculture for non-agricultural purposes. This is important as agriculture continues to constitute the backbone of the country’s economy. In the specific case of food crops, such a remunerative MSP is of paramount importance for safeguarding the food security of the country.
Ironically, neither the earlier government nor the present NDA government had cared to adopt Dr Swaminathan’s recommendation fully. The NDA government continues to fix the MSP for food crops far below the recommended MSPs. For example, the MSP for 2023-24 Kharif Paddy is only Rs 2,183/ quintal (https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1930443)
, whereas the MSP based on the Swaminathan Committee’s recommendation ought to be Rs 2,867/quintal, a shortfall of Rs 684/quintal, around 24% (https://cacp.dacnet.nic.in/content.aspx?pid=32)
No wonder many farmers are migrating to non-agricultural activities and precious agricultural land is getting diverted from food crops for non-agricultural use, a trend that poses a serious threat to the food security of the country. The serious unemployment problem that the country is facing today speks volumes about the problems faced by the farming community across the country.
The most appropriate way for the government to recognise Dr Swaminathan’s contribution to agriculture is by fully adopting the basis recommended by him for fixing the MSP for different crops, especially food crops.
May I request the Prime Minister to take a decision urgently, though 10 years too late, to adopt the basis for fixing the MSP on what Dr Swaminathan recommended? Otherwise, any honour conferred on him will remain incomplete.
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to the Government of India