Farmers’ protest: What is the Swaminathan Commission? What did it recommend



Farmers’ protest: What is the Swaminathan Commission? What did it recommend?

A fresh spotlight is being shone on the Swaminathan Commission in the backdrop of the farmers’ protests. Established in 2004 by the erstwhile UPA regime, the commission headed by Professor MS Swaminathan made several recommendations including bringing a law on MSP, which is the key demand of farmers

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FP Explainers February 14, 2024 18:51:44 IST
Farmers' protest: What is the Swaminathan Commission? What did it recommend?

In the backdrop of the farmers’ protests, a fresh spotlight is being shone on the Swaminathan Commission.

On Tuesday, a member of the commission backed a law on minimum support price (MSP).

Dr RB Singh, a Padma Bhushan awardee and member of the Swaminathan Commission, told NDTV, “For farmers to get the right price for their crops, it is necessary to make a new law on MSP in the country to properly implement the recommendations of the commission.”



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Singh said the recommendations of the commission have “not been implemented in a uniform manner in the country.”

But what is the Swaminathan Commission? What did it recommend?

Let’s take a closer look:

What is it?

The Swaminathan Commission was established in November 2004 by the erstwhile UPA government.

Its full name is the National Commission on Farmers (NCF).

The commission was chaired by professor MS Swaminathan – the renowned agricultural scientist and ‘father of India’s Green Revolution’ – who passed away at age 98 last September.

The Centre had announced a Bharat Ratna for Swaminathan last week.

Farmers protest What is the Swaminathan Commission What did it recommend
The commission was chaired by professor MS Swaminathan – the renowned agricultural scientist and ‘father of India’s Green Revolution’ – who passed away at age 98 last September.

The NCF was asked to look at several issues including:

  • A medium-term strategy for food and nutrition security in the country in order to move towards the goal of universal food security over time
  • Enhancing productivity, profitability, and sustainability of the major farming systems of the country
  • Policy reforms to substantially increase flow of rural credit to all farmers
  • Special programmes for dryland farming for farmers in the arid and semi-arid regions, as well as for farmers in hilly and coastal areas
  • Enhancing the quality and cost competitiveness of farm commodities so as to make them globally competitive
  • Protecting farmers from imports when international prices fall sharply
  • Empowering elected local bodies to effectively conserve and improve the ecological foundations for sustainable agriculture

As per PRS India, the commission submitted five reports from December 2004 to October 2006.

The first four reports were submitted in December 2004, August 2005, December 2005 and April 2006.

The fifth and final report was submitted on 4 October, 2006.

What did it recommend?

The commission had recommended among other things bringing in a law to guarantee MSP for all crops.

According to Economic Times, the NCF said that the MSP ought to be at a minimum 50 per cent over the weighted average cost of production.

This method, called the C2+50 per cent formula, includes the input cost of capital and the rent farmers pay.

“Agrarian distress has led farmers to commit suicide in recent years. The major causes of the agrarian crisis are: unfinished agenda in land reform, quantity and quality of water, technology fatigue, access, adequacy and timeliness of institutional credit, and opportunities for assured and remunerative marketing. Adverse meteorological factors add to these problems,” the report stated.

It also added that farmers must have guaranteed access and control over basic resources such as  land, water, bioresources, credit and insurance, technology and knowledge management, and markets.

It thus called for “agriculture” to be included in the Concurrent List of the Constitution.

As per PRS, the commission also called for promoting commodity-based farmers’ organisations such as Small Cotton Farmers’ Estates.

This, it said, would fuse decentralised production with centralised services such as post-harvest management, value addition and marketing, for leveraging institutional support and facilitating direct farmer-consumer linkage.

It also said that the State Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Acts [APMC Acts] relating to marketing, storage and processing of agriculture produce needs to change to one that promotes grading, branding, packaging and development of domestic and international markets for local produce.

It added that India needs to go in the direction of having a common market.

It said the “net take home income” of cultivators ought to be correspond to that of civil servants.

According to India Today, the commission also called for parcelling out ceiling-surplus and waste land among farmers:

It noted that the bottom half of the rural households owned just three per cent of land.

Farmers protest What is the Swaminathan Commission What did it recommend
The commission called for revamping microfinance policies, covering crops via insurance and forming a social security net. PTI

Meanwhile, the top 10 per cent owned 54 per cent of land.

It also recommended stopping giving prime agricultural land and forest to corporate sector for non-agricultural purposes.

It called for establishing grazing rights and seasonal access to forests to tribals and pastoralists as well as access to common property resources.

It also recommended the formation of a National Land Use Advisory Service:

It also called for the establishment of a process to regulate the sale of agricultural land based on several factors including the amount of land, its proposed use and type  of buyer.

However, the UPA government did not include the MSP recommendation in its 2007 National Policy for Farmers, as per India Today.

According to Moneycontrol, it also called for improving irrigation resources and its farmers’ access to it.

It proposed rainwater harvesting, water level recharging in order to increase water supply.

It called for bringing down interest rates on crop loans, establishing a moratorium on debt recovery, setting up an agricultural risk fund as well as a Kisan Credit Card for women farmers.

It also suggested setting up affordable health insurance at primary health centres in rural India including suicide-prone areas.

It called for revamping microfinance policies, covering crops via insurance and forming a social security net.

Why wasn’t the MSP recommendation heeded?

The Congress-led UPA government did not accept the recommendation on MSP as it claimed it would be ‘counterproductive,’ as per Economic Times.

KV Thomas, the then MoS of Agriculture in 2010 told the Rajya Sabha the then government took the decision after considering various factors.

“…prescribing an increase of an at least 50 per cent on cost may distort the market. A mechanical linkage between MSP and cost of production may be counter-productive in some cases,” Thomas was quoted as saying.

Officials told The Times of India offering MSP for all crops would leave the Centre very little to pursue other development and social goals.

But the Congress, despite its history on the MSP, has seized on the farmers’ protests.

Former party leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday vowed to grant MSP to every farmer if the party is voted to power.

Rahul further posted on X:


With inputs from agencies

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