NEW DELHI: The government would seek Election Commission’s permission to effect a steep 40-60% increase in the minimum support price (MSP) of minor forest produce (MFP) in tribal dominated states — a move which would benefit tribals in pollbound BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh which have a sizeable tribal population. The government will finally use the same parameters for fixing MSP for MFP as is done by the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices. The scheme, which was launched by the Congress-led UPA government in 2013-14, involves fixing MSP for 24 identified minor forest produce which are collected by tribals in remote areas. These tribals then sell MFPs in village haats. If the market prices fall below MSP, state government agencies move in to procure the minor forest produce. The tribal affairs ministry – whose marketing arm, the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED), is the nodal agency for the scheme – will seek the Election Commission’s permission for the increase.
“The MSP increase will be finalised over the next few weeks,” TRIFED managing director Pravir Krishna told ET. “We will seek the Election Commission’s permission to introduce the hike in poll-bound states.” The government plans to tell the Election Commission that the increase should be allowed as it is under an ongoing scheme and not a new incentive being introduced as a sop for voters. The move will result in a complete revamp of the scheme, which has not taken off over the past four financial years. As first reported in ET on August 7, the government plans to not only increase MSP but also more than double the number of products included under the scheme to 50 from 24. The timing of MSP increase is crucial. Although the government has said that the scheme is not a new one, it will directly benefit tribals in the three BJP-ruled election-bound states. Chhattisgarh has 34 out of 90 assembly seats reserved for STs, Rajasthan has 25 of 200 ST reserved seats and Madhya Pradesh 41 of 230 ST reserved segments. A senior tribal ministry official told ET, “In case the Election Commission denies permission, it would not really impact the tribal population adversely as the season for collecting MFP only begins in January. We could announce it in election-bound states after the results are announced in December.”
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Centre to seek Election Commission’s nod for 40-60% MSP hike for forest items
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