Indian Express Editorial Analysis- 17 February 2024

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Indian Express Editorial Analysis- 17 February 2024

1. The fallacy of MSP

Topic: GS3 – Agriculture – MSP 
In light of the larger socioeconomic issues that rural communities face, such as declining incomes, agricultural distress, and the requirement for inclusive policy interventions, this topic is pertinent for both the Prelims and Mains exams.

– Indian farmers have taken to the streets once more, but this time there isn’t a clear cause like the divisive farm laws that initially prompted their protests.
– They do, however, have a range of demands, the main one being the acquisition of a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Prices (MSP).
– This demand is a reflection of a long-standing problem in the agriculture industry that is made worse by uncertainty regarding the advantages and methods of implementing MSP.
– This analysis explores the subtleties of the MSP demand and possible ramifications.

The Significance of MSP:

  • When market prices fall below MSP, government intervention protects farmers from market volatility by stabilizing the price of vital agricultural commodities.
  • Farmers in India are calling for a legal guarantee despite the program having been in place for more than 50 years, but it has not been consistently implemented for all crops.
  • The government sets the maximum support price (MSP) for 23 crops each year, but it only really intervenes in rice and wheat, sometimes going so far as to meet legal requirements.

Challenges and Misconceptions:

  • Though there is political agreement that MSP is essential, financial concerns have prevented some governments from institutionalizing it.
  • Misconceptions regarding the workings of MSP implementation have led to inflated estimates of the costs involved, which have impeded progress.
  • The misconception that the MSP guarantee requires the government to buy all agricultural produce is refuted by the fact that it only covers a portion of marketable surplus and that selective intervention is only carried out when market prices drop below MSP thresholds.

Cost Considerations and Subsidies:

  • The cost of obtaining wheat and rice under the MSP is frequently misinterpreted as a burden on the government, but in actuality, consumers are primarily subsidized rather than farmers directly.
  • Government procurement costs are negligible for crops that exceed the NFSA bundle, particularly if the government chooses not to sell them with subsidies.
  • In certain instances, the government may even make money by promoting produce it has acquired at a premium, aiding in efforts to stabilize the market.

Opportunities for Reform:

  • A guaranteed MSP offers a chance to diversify and broaden procurement beyond rice and wheat, even though it might not be able to alleviate every farmer’s problem.
  • By promoting investment, storage management, and crop diversification, a more inclusive MSP framework can address regional differences in agricultural productivity.
  • Such reforms are essential for long-term agricultural stability and sustainable management of natural resources.

Implications for the Rural Economy:

  • The farmers’ desire for MSP reform is a reflection of larger complaints about years of disregard for the agrarian economy, which is marked by falling real wages and incomes.
  • Although the exact cost of the MSP guarantee is difficult to estimate, it is probably less than the financial burden of controlling inflation.
  • In addition to protecting farmers’ incomes, maintaining price stability through MSP also shields consumers from inflationary pressures, which helps the rural economy as a whole recover.


  • Farmers’ recent protests highlight long-standing problems in India’s agriculture sector, chief among them being the need for a legal guarantee for maximum support price (MSP).
  • Revisions to MSP policies, clarification of existing beliefs, and procurement mechanism expansion are ways to promote rural development and sustainable agriculture.
  • Policymakers can create a more resilient and equitable agricultural sector by putting the needs of farmers first and maintaining price stability.

Crops Under MSP
– The government releases the Fair and Remunerative Prices (FRP) for sugarcane as well as MSPs for the 22 required crops. Fourteen kharif crops, six rabi crops, and two additional commercial crops are the required crops.
The list of crops is as follows:

1) Cereals (7): Paddy, wheat, barley, jowar, bajra, maize and ragi
2) Pulses (5): Gram, arhar/tur, moong, urad and lentil
3) Oilseeds (8): Groundnut, rapeseed/mustard, toria, soyabean, sunflower seed, sesamum, safflower seed and nigerseed
4) Raw Cotton
5) Raw Jute
6) Copra
7) De-husked Coconut
8) Sugarcane (FRP)
9) Virginia flu-cured (VFC) Tobacco

– Currently, MSPs receive notifications for 23 crops; however, procurement is only carried out for wheat and paddy crops that fulfill public distribution system requirements.

PYQ: By Minimum Support Price (MSP), what do you mean? How will MSP help farmers escape the poverty trap? (150 words, 10 seconds) (CSE (M) GS-3, UPSSC 2018)
Practice Question: Talk about the significance of Indian farmers’ demand for a legal guarantee of Minimum Support Prices (MSPs). Examine the obstacles to successfully implementing MSP and make recommendations for ways to change the system to support the agricultural sector’s long-term expansion. (15 m/250 words)

2. A Thousand Steps Back

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Important aspects of governance: Transparency and accountability GS2 – Polity – Judiciary 
This topic, which emphasizes the role of the judiciary in interpreting and upholding constitutional principles, is pertinent for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the intersection of law, governance, and democratic processes.

– It was thought that the introduction of electoral bonds would significantly improve accountability and transparency in India’s political financing system.
– The government sought to reduce the influence of black money in politics by requiring all political donations to go through official banking channels and guaranteeing that every rupee contributed was legitimate and traceable.

Anonymity of Electoral Bonds:

  • Although there have been complaints about electoral bonds’ anonymity, they protect donors from possible retaliation or abuse because of their support or affiliation with a particular political party.
  • It is essential to a democratic society to be able to support a political cause or party without worrying about retaliation.
  • Electoral bonds’ anonymity fosters a more favorable and diverse climate for political financing.

The Supreme Court’s Judgment:

  • These important advantages are ignored by the recent Supreme Court ruling that deemed electoral bonds to be ultra vires.
  • The Court ignores the larger context and the transformative potential of electoral bonds by concentrating only on the potential for misuse.
  • This verdict not only puts a stop to advancement but also seems to support a return to the murky, profit-driven politics that have dogged Indian politics for many years.

Resistance to Reformative Measures:

  • Similar opposition to other reformative measures, like the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), is being shown to electoral bonds.
  • The two initiatives shared the goal of improving accountability and transparency in important democratic processes.
  • But the selective adoption of these reforms exposes a partiality towards transparency, open to change in some areas but not in others.

Urgent Need for Dialogue and Reframing the Narrative:

  • Stakeholders must immediately begin discussing how to contest this ruling in light of the ruling and emphasize how electoral bonds have the potential to revolutionize political financing.
  • Recasting the story to highlight the unchecked inflow of black money into politics rather than the misuse of electoral bonds is the real threat to democracy.
  • We need to have a constructive debate to improve and refine the electoral bond scheme, not abandon it.

Reaffirmation of Judiciary’s Independence:

  • The choice regarding electoral bonds also emphasizes the judiciary’s independence and autonomy from the executive branch.
  • The Court’s careful application of the law and constitutional fidelity must be acknowledged by those who accuse it of being in line with the government.
  • This ruling refutes claims of bias and is evidence of the judiciary’s steadfast dedication to protecting constitutional values.


  • The ruling on electoral bonds by the Supreme Court should be seen as a confirmation of the judiciary’s independence as well as having an immediate impact on election financing.
  • Critics ought to acknowledge the Court’s intricate and impartial role in striking a balance between various legal mandates.
  • Going forward, strengthening accountability and transparency in India’s political funding landscape will require constructive dialogue and reforms.

What Guidelines Exist Regarding Political Party Financing?
Indrajit Gupta Committee (1998): State-Supported Election Funding:
– Approved the funding of elections by the state in order to create an even playing field for parties with lower budgets.

Recommended limitations:
– Only national and state parties with designated symbols may receive state funding; independent candidates will not be eligible.
– First, the state ought to give recognized political parties and their candidates in-kind funding by providing certain facilities.
– Acknowledged the limitations of the economy and argued in favor of partial rather than full state funding.

The recommendations of the Election Commission:
– The Election Commission’s 2004 report emphasized how important it is for political parties to release their annual reports so that interested parties and the public can review them.
– Accurate accounts that have been audited and approved by the Comptroller and Auditor General should be made available to the public.

Law Commission, 1999:
– Declared full state funding of elections to be “desirable,” provided that political parties are not allowed to accept donations from outside sources.
– In its 1999 report, the Law Commission suggested amending the RPA, 1951 and adding section 78A, which would have required political party accounts to be maintained, audited, and published, along with fines for noncompliance.

Practice Question: Talk about how the recent ruling by the Supreme Court that declared electoral bonds to be ultra vires affects the accountability and transparency of political funding in India. (10 m / 150 words)

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