A farmer holds a millet plant for a photograph in a field on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Farmers’ Body Demands Income Security In Pre-Budget Meeting

Agriculture experts and farmers’ associations today sought income security for the community in a pre-budget consultation meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The median income of farmers in 2012 was a meagre Rs 1,600 per month, Secretary General of the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association, B Dasaratha Rami Reddy, told reporters post the meeting in New Delhi. This has prompted the community to demand such an Income Security Act for farmers as well as tenant and farm labours, he added. The association has not submitted any threshold for minimum income for the proposed Act.

In a written note, Reddy said farmers cannot be made to bear the burden of higher tax especially when the sector is barely sustaining. The body has, therefore, requested the finance minister to remove Goods and Services Tax on fertilisers, pesticides, tractors, sprayers, and harvesting and micro irrigation equipment to make the sector profitable.

Batting For Buffer Stocking, MSP On More Commodities

The government should think of providing social security like pension to farmers, former Member of Parliament Y Sivaji said post the meeting.

Agricultural economist Ashok Gulati, who was also present at the meeting, urged buffer stocking for commodities whose prices are trading below the minimum support price. Minimum Support Price or MSP is a form of market intervention by the Government of India, either in the form of a subsidy or a price control, to insure farmers against any sharp fall in farm prices.

Cost of importing such items is cheaper than their MSP, so the demand is to “dovetail” tariffs with MSP, Gulati added.

In a written note, Sivaji said the government should fix an MSP for more agricultural products, besides 24 crops where it has already been implemented. Farmers currently sell crops at a cheaper rate as they do not have capacity to store the produce and wait for remunerative prices.

Subjects like agricultural credit, increasing farm income and farmer suicides were also discussed at the pre-budget meeting, Social Economist Madan Diwan said.

Trade Unions Push For Higher Minimum Wage

In a separate pre-budget consultation meeting, trade unions pushed the government to increase minimum wages for government employees and hike pensions.

Minimum wages for government employees need to be reviewed and fixed at Rs 26,000 from Rs 18,000, said Harbhajan Singh Sidhu, general secretary of Hind Mazdoor Sabha said in a written statement. The union has also asked for an increase in the minimum pension of retired government employees to Rs 6,000 per month, he said after the meeting with Jaitley.

Unions have also demanded that government policies be geared towards creating more jobs in the economy, said K Lakshma Reddy, vice president of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.

In a press note, following these meetings, the finance minister said workers are entitled to minimum wages prescribed by law, and asked all concerned industries to strictly comply with the current norms.