New Delhi: Is the Narendra Modi-led NDA government seriously mulling to introduce direct benefit transfer (DBT) to farmers of the country, replacing the muddled system of minimum support price (MSP)? According to MyNation’s sources, the move is being rigorously debated in the highest quarters of the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The economic merits of the new system apart, the recent losses in three major states — the party lost hold of three major states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the just bygone Assembly polls — have made the party, as well as the government, take a long and hard look at the possibility that its initiative to hike the MSP might not have appealed to the farming communities of the country. A serious churn is, therefore, afoot.

According to highly-placed sources in the party, while several suggestions have come from economists in favour of replacing the old MSP with the new DBT, the government was still in the process of gauging its merits and demerits amid several other suggestions for alleviating the financial pressure on the farmers.

Union minister Ramnath Athavale on Tuesday had dropped ample hints at the thinking that has been going on inside the power corridors of the Modi government. He had told reporters in Sangli district’s Islampur in Maharashtra that the Rs 15 lakh promised by the Modi government on the eve of coming to power in 2014, in lieu of the retrieval of the black money stashed outside the country, would come but “slowly” and not at once. He said that RBI has been asked for money, but it had refused to lend that money so far to the government. He had also cited technical difficulties in the process.

Meanwhile, sources in the BJP told MyNation that the Kisan Morcha had also been consulted in the matter. “The Kisan Morcha has been told, among other relevant verticals of the party, to work out a formula for implementing the DBT scheme before elections next year. The basic idea has been derived from Telangana,” a functionary of the morcha told MyNation on the condition of anonymity.

Sources also said that while the idea of blanket loan waiver had been aired within the party, it was not found in accordance with the economic vision of the organisation. 

In Telangana, chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has already launched an investment support scheme called ‘Rythu Bandhu’ under which farmers get Rs 8,000 per acre per year, Rs 4,000 before each of the two cropping season, to cover costs of investments such as seeds and fertilisers. This is transferred directly to the bank accounts of the farmers. The move has not just eliminated the political manipulation of MSP, but the directness of it helps the farmers get freedom from sowing just procurement crops.

Meanwhile, the Niti Aayog too has been wary of MSP. According to the planning body, MSP had introduced distortions in the cropping pattern, resulting in an excessive concentration on the cultivation of wheat, rice and sugarcane in the procurement states at the expense of other grains and pulses, and oilseed.

The MSP had also resulted in the overuse of water resources, soil degradation and deterioration in water quality in certain states, most notably in the north-western states. Instead, the Aayog had posited a system of ‘Price Deficiency Payment’.