Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Retail Limited is planning to purchase 1,000 quintals of Sona Masoori Paddy from farmers in Raichur, Karnataka for a price more than Minimum Support Price or MSP.
The company managed by the richest person of India has offered Rs 1,950 per quintal of Sona Masoori. This amount offered by Reliance is Rs 82 more than the offered MSP for the crop set by the government. With selling their produce at a rate more than Rs 1,868 set up by the government as many as 1,100 paddy farmers are going to be benefitted. The company initiated an agreement with Swasthya Farmers Producing Company or SFPC to carry out this purchase.
As a prerequisite to implementing the procurement, the giant has stipulated that there should not be more than 16% moisture in the crop production, which will be tested by a third-party firm. Once the tests yields are positive and the produce is approved, the agents of the company will work towards procuring the crop. According to Mallikarjun Valkaldinni, Managing Director of SFPC, after this produce satisfies the required checks, Reliance will transfer the money to SFPC online. This amount will then be credited directly to the farmers’ accounts
Currently, the warehouses of Reliance hold nearly 500 quintals of paddy which is expected to go through anytime now. The delivery shall be done by GPS tracked vehicle in order to prevent the tampering of crops at any stage.
This deal by Reliance has garnered centre stage and invited mass attention as the farmers from Punjab and other parts of the world are protesting against the newly enacted farm sector reform laws. These laws aim at encouraging contract farming which is demeaned by farmers across the nation. They fear corporate overtake of farmlands and rising insecurities about their produce.
These agitated farmers have hurdled at the border of India’s capital Delhi for over two months now undeterred by the biting cold and firm in their resolve. They have accused the corporate giants and the multinational companies of looking at the potential to exploit the farmers via several clauses in the new farm laws which are detrimental to the interest of farmers. These farmers are insecure that once these farm laws come into force and companies start entering into contract farming agreements with the farmers of the country, they might exploit the farmers by luring them to part with their land.
For months now, thousands of farmers have dug their heels at the protest venues promising to not return home till their demands are met. Something that has not been possible even after seven rounds of negotiations between a 41-member representative group of farmers and three Union ministers. Minister of agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar had claimed that the groups have reach a stage of at least 50 per cent resolution with mutual agreement on two out of the four items listed in the agenda.
This development by Reliance Industries has raised questions over the authenticity of the company policies. This is because the paddy procurement agreement with SFPC contradicts a statement made by the owner himself.
Mukesh Ambani had earlier raised his voice in support of the protesting farmers by assuring them that his company has never been involved in corporate farming and does not plan to do that in the near future either. And now we have this news. So, the question here is that what is the truth? Indeed, acts outweigh the words or statements.
Earlier this month, Mukesh Ambani clarified to the media that Reliance industries do not have any plans to enter in corporate farming by insisting to its suppliers to abide by the minimum support price (MSP) and keep the agriculture producers contended.
The company was somehow forced to issue such clarifications because it has been one of the major targets of the ongoing farmer protests across the country. The people are very well of the mutually inclusive relations Reliance shares with the Bharatiya Janata party headed by our Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi. This agitation of farmers against the farms laws passed by the parliament has sometimes taken the route of vandalization, with the main target being Jio’s mobile towers. People of Punjab have damaged a few towers regarding which the complaint has also been filed by the company. Reliance Retail, the retail arm of Reliance Industries controls nearly half of vegetable and fruit sales in the organised retail space. This is another reason why the farmers are afraid of manipulation of politics under a corporate motive. It is expected that the company shall choose to reap immense monetary benefits from the new farm laws.
In the report against vandalization of Jio towers, Reliance Industries also dragged its fellow telecom sector competitors- Airtel and Vodafone Idea, claiming that they did all this in the frame of personal aggression and unhealthy competition.
The company claimed that Reliance Retail does not buy any agricultural produce directly from the farmers. In a statement, the company officials mentioned that “Reliance has never entered into long-term procurement contracts to gain an unfair advantage over farmers or sought that its suppliers buy from farmers at less than remunerative prices, nor will it ever do so.”
Conclusively, all of us are perplexed with this decision by Reliance. What is the company seeking and is it actually making a fool out of all the people who have kept the trust in its operations? Well, we don’t really know yet and I shall arrest my case here, giving you the space to think and make up your mind.