Agri Business

Why spooks are keeping an eye on farm prices, supplies

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on January 18, 2018 Published on January 18, 2018

The government is increasingly worried about the disgruntlement amongst farmers   -  FARUQUI

Fear of political fallout of farm woes sees intel agents deployed to track price shifts

India’s intelligence agencies seem as worried as commodity traders over rising prices and supply issues affecting agri produce such as sugarcane, sugar and onion.

Drastic changes in prices, the agencies believe, could spell political trouble for the Modi government and States under BJP rule.

Traditionally, it’s the brokerage firms, commodity exchanges and mandarins across various ministries that have kept an eye on price graphs.

During the past year, a five-fold price rise has been seen in produce such as onions, where the modal price has increased from ₹561 per quintal to ₹2,880 per quintal. Rising onion prices could lead to strife in urban areas.

“Volatility in prices could bring disgruntled groups in the farming community to the forefront. These groups, using traditional Left-wing followers combined with Urban Naxal cadres, could foment trouble for State governments. Urban Naxals are suspected to have had a hand in the recent bout of violence in Maharashtra over the Bhima-Koregaon issue,” said a senior intelligence officer, who declined to be identified.

Growing unrest

Last June, farmers went on a strike in Maharashtra seeking loan waivers, higher support prices for their produce and implementation of the Swaminathan Committee recommendations.

Madhya Pradesh also saw its share violence in June, with police resorting to firing in Mandsaur to quell a farmer riot.

In the same period, Gujarat’s farmers were also agitating over the slump in prices of pulses, cotton and groundnut.

“The Central agencies believe that some Leftist groups managed to cash in on the farmers’ woes for political troubles. Therefore, more focus is now being given to tracking prices at the marketplaces and mandis as well as on electronic platforms,” another officer said.

Officers said that tur prices could potentially be a flashpoint in 2018 as prices continue to remain subdued and are not even close to the ₹5,450 per quintal minimum support price announced by the Centre.

Land rights activist Ulka Mahajan, who has led a number of agitations of farmers against private and government projects, told BusinessLine that in recent years, surveillance by intelligence agencies has increased.

Recording of activists’ speeches is a matter of routine but people’s reaction to the issues being raised by activists is also being gauged by the agencies, she said.

Published on January 18, 2018

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