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The Idea Of One Nation One MSP Amidst The Concept Of Federalism

What Is Agriculture

Agriculture is the "Art and Science" of cultivating the soils, growing crops and raising livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surplus that enabled people to live in cities.

Agriculture In Terms Of India

India is a global agricultural powerhouse. India is the world's largest producer of milk, pulses and spices and has the world's largest cattle herd as well as largest area under wheat, rice, cotton. India is the second largest producer of rice, wheat, cotton, sugarcane, fruit, meat, vegetables and tea. The country has some 195mha under cultivation of which some 63% are ranified while 37% are irrigated.

Nearly, three-quarters of India's families depends on incomes which come from agriculture. Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India's population. The recent data of economic survey shows that the share of agriculture in gross domestic product has reached almost 20%. Agriculture was the "Only one" sector which recorded "Positive growth" of 3.4% in the first quarter of 20-21 when other sectors slid because of first wave of covid-19.

In short agriculture is India's sheet anchor when it comes to providing livelihood and a square meal.

But in recent years, India is facing crisis in its agriculture sector and agriculture sector is facing several problems and this sector is going through most stressed phase.

What Is Federalism

Federalism is the system of government in which the same territory is controlled by two levels of government. Generally an overreaching national government is responsible for broader governance of larger territorial areas, while the smaller subdivisions, states and cities govern the issues of local concern.

Federalism represents either a "Coming together" or a "Holding together". The holding together view of federalism is applicable to India. The holding together view of federalism also called "New federalism" represents an attempt to decentralize responsibilities to state and local government to overcome regional and local discontent with central policies.

Federalism In The Context Of India

Article1 of Indian constitution clearly states that "India shall be a union of states". Federalism in India mentions the relationship between central govt. and state governments .In India both central as well as state govts. enjoy certain level of sovereignty and state governments are not inferior to the union government.

Our forefathers who were part of making the "Great Indian constitution" were very serious about the decentralization of power. Because according to them India is a very diverse and vast country and it is not possible for a govt. "AT THE TOP" to control this huge country. Therefore the constituent assembly decided to include "7th Schedule" in the Indian constitution. The 7th schedule of Indian constitution defines and specifies allocation of powers and functions between the union and various states.

This schedule consists of 3 lists namely:
  1. Central list
  2. State list
  3. Concurrent list

It is evident from this picture that "AGRICULTURE" Is in a "STATE LIST".
And states are empowered to effectively regulate this sector as well frame policies for growth.

Problems With Indian Agriculture Sector

Agricultural sector is one of most important sector of India. It's contribution and crucial role in Indian economy cannot be denied. Indian's agricultural history candidly tells us about its "Great agricultural efficiency, excellent climatic condition and abundance of resources".

But after the LPG REFORM of 1991 where every other sector was blooming at its highest rate the agricultural sector started facing crisis.

Here I would mention some of the problems which are faced by India's agricultural sector and then elucidate my topic.
  1. Less use of modern farming equipment
  2. Insufficient water supply
  3. Over dependence on traditional crops
  4. Poor storage facilities
  5. Transportation problems
  6. Lack of scientific method of farming and technology
  7. Lack of infrastructure
  8. High interest rates
  9. Over dependence on raining water
  10. UNIFORM MSP for all states which is decided by central government.

What Is MSP

The abbreviation "MSP" stands for "MINIMUM SUPPORT PRICE". It started in 1966-67. The MSP is a minimum price that acts as a sheet anchor for Indian farmers when they go to sell their crops after harvesting ends. Under "MSP SYSTEM" these crops are purchased by central government and it's agencies at a particular price.

MSP is a minimum price that governments provides to the farmers as an aid. It is also the price that govt. agencies pay whenever they procure the particular crop from farmers.MSP acts as a safety nets/insurance for farmers and their crops. The MSP secures the agricultural sector when the price fluctuates or goes down because of various environmental, national, international causes.

India was the food deficient country in 1947 and in today's world India is a food surplus country and let me candidly say that it Is MSP which turned the table and revolutionize the agricultural sector. Today India is among few countries who supply foods to different countries, so the credit should be given to MSP.As of now CACP recommends MSPs of 23 commodities which comprise of 7 cerels, 5 pulses, 7 oilseeds and 4 commercial crops.

Who Decides MSP

MSP is decided by Central government in the consultation with the CACP.

Problems With The MSP

The main and foremost problem with MSP is its "UNIFORMITY ACROSS INDIA". MSP which is mainly decided by "CENTRAL GOVERNMENT" is same for all the regions of this DIVERSE country. A country which traverse from 17000ft above mean sea level to 20m below the ocean, and consists of plain, plateaus, coastal plains, ghats ,mountains, deserts, islands And jungles the one fits all approach is not neither acceptable nor feasible and practically possible in such a diverse country.

Even though this immense problem is not noticed by our governments, activists, and agricultural scientists at close quarters this problem is most harmful for small and marginal framers because they are thrown into debts as the gaps are getting widened between the input costs and income from the yield because of this practice.India is a very diverse country having different kinds of environment, soils and ecological situations so one uniform approach to MSP is not a viable.

Uniformity of msp across india is widening a gap between production cost and input cost and it is the small farmers who are bearing the burnt of this evil.There are extremely diverse agro-ecologies in the country.

Consider for instance cropping patterns of Himanchal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan. States are better equipped and in better position to design and implement policies in accordance with their's strengths and weakness Msp system which was started in 1966-67 to provide a kind of safety nets for the farmers is now proving counterproductive because of msp's uniformity and geographical dissimilarities among the states.

This is the very important and serious question which is not in big draw in today's world. It is the responsibility of government, economists and agricultural scientists to come home to this problem and take a holistic approach on this

problem. Msp system which was started for providing support to small and poor Indian farmers is now proving broken reed. We all know that cost of production varies from state to state and is depend on the type of soil, availability of water supply, irrigation, environmental conditions, agricultural methods among others then it is absolutely unfair to declare msp in uniform manner.

As we can't compare and say that a washing machine is same as a refrigerator in the way we can't say that cost of production is same for Rajasthan

(which is water deficient) and Punjab (which is water efficient) . It is unfair and might prove counterproductive to compare the ecological conditions of farmers of Punjab who are relatively richer than farmers of Bihar.

In 1960's after india faced acute shortage of food supply pertaining to multiple years of drought policies were designed to maintain reserve stocks of food, providing price support to farmers by declaring and procuring at msp for various commodities and selling the grain at subsidized rates for those who can't afford it, this was the main aim and motto with which msp was started but still msp is not able to achieve what it was aspire to achieve.

We know that after lpg reform India's agriculture sector is not flourishing as fast as other sectors so now all the onus is on msp to provide relief and provide small farmers with some amount of money but because of its uniformity the vicious cycle of poverty, frustration, debt, low produce prices and natural calamities which add flame to the fuel goes on and results in the suicide of farmers. The second most important problem with msp is

that it is decided by central government and not by state government. Now I will discuss the role of state government in this debate.

Role Of States

The constitution of India is the supreme law which is governing the country. It frames fundamental principles, rights, procedures, practices, powers, duties of governments at various levels. The constitution provisions in India on the subject of distribution of powers between centre and states are clearly defined in the various articles and 7th schedule of Indian constitution of India. Article 246 of Indian constitution deals with the division of power between union and states government. It contains 3 lists namely- Central list, State list, Concurrent list. However the const provides the federal supremacy to parliament on concurrent list items in case of conflict.

The state list contains 61 items (originally 66) in the 7th schedule. Means the respective state government have exclusive power to legislate and administer as well on matters relating to these items.

Debate Over Centralization Of Power

Since 1950 the 7th schedule has seen a number of amendments by the Parliament. As a result of which the items in the central and concurrent list have grown but at the sma time items in the state list have gradually reduced. One of the most controversial situation arised in the 1976 when during emergency the indira Gandhi government again amended thr 7th schedule of Indian constitution and transferred

education, forest, administration of justice and so on in the central list. Even at that moment states were in logger heads with the central government. Tamil Nadu's cm called this amendment as "BLOT ON DEMOCRACY".As a result of this amendment M Karunanidhi constituted the "PV RAJMANNAR COMMITTEE" to look into centre-states relationship. Even after observing the conditions of dispute Indira Gandhi constituted sarkaria commission to look into centre and state relations.However the recommendations of Sarkaria commission were not implemented and materialized by any central government.

Assault On Federalism

Our constitution provides a clear cut divisions of power between the govt at the centre and various state government. But despite of such clear cut instructions the isisue of central state relation has been a perennial one.Mostly,such disputes arise when the centre encroaches upon states' power or legislate a matter which curtails the rights of states legislature.Most contemporary example of this encroachment is uniformity of msp which is decided by the central government.

Uniformity of msp across India which is decided by central govt. is an clear assault on federalism. The slogan "ONE INDIA,ONE MSP" is not healthy for India's democracy at all. Entry 14 of state list mentions the item relating to agriculture. If we were to deduce from this that agriculture is a state subject it would be formally correct. However some other provisions in the union and concurrent list have provide legal justification for central's encroachment in the sphere of agriculture.

Factors Affecting Cost Of Production

Cost of production of agricultural comoodities depend upon various factors like:
  1. Internal factors-Yielding ability of soil, drought, flood, tolerance to insect pets and diseases, quality of grains, etc.
  2. External factors-Precipitation, temperature, atmospheric humidity, solar radiation, wind velocity, atmospheric gases etc.
  3. Biotic factors-Beneficial and harmful effects caused by plants and animals on the commodities.
  4. Physiographic factors-Topographic factors, altitude, steepness of slope, exposure to light and wind etc.
  5. Socio-economic factors-Society inclination to farming, Appropriate choices of crops, Breeding varieties, economic condition of the framers etc.
These are the some factors which affect the cost of production of commodities. It is evident and we all are aware of this fact that india is very diverse country and these five factors vary from state to state menas they are non-uniform. Then biggest question is how a uniform solution can solve a non uniform problem??

The Right To Decide MSP Should Be Given To The Respective States
As we have previously discussed that agriculture is a state subject and it is completely empowered to govern this sector. Then a fundamental question arises, does the parliament have the legislative competence to enact laws regarding this sector?

The word "AGRICULTURE" finds mention 12 times in three lists.In list 1st ,it appears in entries 82,86,87,88 and in list 2nd under entries 14,18,30,46,47,48 and under entries 6,41 of list 3rd .It would be observed that under list 1st in entries 82,86,87,88 parliament's law making power has been circumscribed by the words "OTHER THAN" agricultural income or exclusive of agricultural land or other than agricultural land .This means that union list does not empower the parliament to enact any laws on agriculture.

By enacting agricultural laws and deciding uniform msp for all the states parliament is overstepping itself and upsetting the balance of federalism.

Though central government can argue that india is not federal nation rather it is quasi-federal with asymmetric federalism and it is true but even B.R AMBEDKAR said in the debate of constituent assembly that our constitution is both "unitary as well as federal according to the requirement of time and circumstances".

Means even constituent assembly was serious about the division of legislative powers between states and central government.

Now it's a high time for states to recognize theirs powers and call a spade a spade and should come ahead to protect the great India's agriculture as well as India's federalism.

This courage of state governments would not only endowed them with powers but would also uphold the sanctity of Indian constitution.

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