Haryana’s drive to make it mandatory for cultivators of wheat and mustard to enrol themselves in order to sell their produce in mandis should sound familiar. It was only last October that this very ‘Meri Fasal, Mera Byora’ scheme was rolled out for bajra (millet) farmers of Haryana. The objectives were exactly the same: to prevent huge stocks from other states from elbowing out local producers in the state grain markets and ensuring that such non-water guzzling crops became part of a regular cropping pattern. Even this was lifted from Madhya Pradesh’s Bhavantar Bharpayee Yojana (BBY) that proved to be an electoral wet blanket in the recent Assembly elections.
As was the case with millet in Haryana or seven major kharif crops under BBY, cultivators were left unsatisfied. There was confusion in both states over ‘model rates’ vs the minimum support price (MSP) and the farmers inevitably got the short end of the stick. A specified time window for procurement had led to a supply avalanche and consequent distress selling so that in the end only the traders benefited from a crash in prices during the BBY procurement window. Having copied the scheme from MP, the Haryana Government would do well to avoid its pitfalls that have an attached political cost.
Haryana needs to signal sincerity behind the purpose to avoid MP’s fate where only 20 per cent of farmers registered for BBY. Its ability to ensure direct payments in farmers’ accounts and stalling sales from neighbouring states hinges on the complete digitalisation of records. For this, the government would need to remove apprehensions that this is a move to fix limits on procurement from individual farmers. At the same time, the past failures and partial-successes suggest improvements in the basics, beginning with the handling in the crop arrival stage itself to enthuse farmers. This also means nudging the remaining 40 per cent of the state’s 54 mandis into online trade and smoothening officialdom’s verification of claims. Haryana must ensure that the scheme is not restricted to helping only the paddy trade but becomes a tool for crop diversification.