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A political ploy: on the hike in MSPs

The Centre has cleared a hike in the minimum support prices (MSPs) for the kharif summer crop, ranging from a modest 3.7% increase for urad to as much as a 52.5% for the cereal ragi over the previous season. The NDA government says this ‘redeems’ its promise of assuring farmers a price at least 150% of the cost of production. The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices is said to have gone by this cost-plus-50% principle, in line with the farm sector strategy announced in this year’s Budget. While making calculations, it relied on estimates of input costs actually paid by farmers and the imputed value of unpaid family labour engaged in the field. Yet, the final hikes announced for some crops are even higher – with the MSP for bajra pegged 97% over estimated costs. On an average, the MSP hike notified for 17 kharif crops is about 25% higher and constitutes the biggest hike since 2013-14. All in all, the announcement is an olive branch to farmers who over the past year spearheaded widespread protests over the rural distress. With less than a year to go for the general election, the NDA government has clearly opted to reverse the abundant, inflation-weary caution it had exercised while fixing MSPs. In fact, soon after assuming office in 2014, it had even admonished State governments for granting bonuses over and above the MSPs. Given that the MSP mechanism is primarily enforced through official procurement only for wheat and paddy, mere announcement of prices for other crops is unlikely to suffice in ensuring farmers get those returns. Anticipating this, the Budget had promised that Niti Aayog would work with the Centre and States to put a fool-proof mechanism in place so that farmers get adequate remuneration if market prices slip below the MSP. This could be through government purchases or a gap-funding mechanism whereby the difference between MSPs and market prices is transferred to farmers. Little is known on the status of this endeavour, or the Centre’s procurement strategy for this year. As things stand, the impact of these hikes on consumer price inflation is expected to vary between 0.5% and 1% by the end of 2018-19. On the other hand, the Centre’s fiscal arithmetic may not be too adversely affected if its outlay on procurement is around ₹15,000 crore, about 0.1% of GDP. But these costs could mount based on the procurement strategy and the new mechanism for MSP enforcement. While rural incomes may rise from this farm-friendly gesture, concomitant reforms to free agricultural markets are vital to prevent a distortionary effect on farmers’ choices on account of MSPs. Easing onerous stockholding limits under the Essential Commodities Act and avoiding frequent curbs on farm exports are key.

Merkel’s deal

Angela Merkel, now in her fourth term as German Chancellor, has weathered many crises without jeopardising the stability of the government in Berlin, or the integrity of the eurozone. After an inconclusive election in September 2017, she held firm against the demands of smaller parties that seemed incompatible with her moderate and accommodative stance. In March, the initially reluctant centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) saw wisdom in reviving the grand coalition with Ms. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union as the only realistic option to avert another poll. This week she resolved a row on the refugee question that could have ended the CDU’s 70-year alliance with its sister party from Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, and risked her government’s fall. Horst Seehofer, the Interior Minister from the CSU, wanted migrants to be immediately turned back to the country of their original registration in the European Union. The Chancellor held that the proposal was at odds with the bloc’s principle of free movement as embodied in the Schengen passport-free zone and would undermine EU unity. Under the latest compromise, asylum seekers registered outside Germany would be accommodated in transit centres on the border with Austria and sent directly to the respective states. The step represents a victory for Mr. Seehofer, a staunch opponent of the open-doors approach on migration who had threatened to resign form his party and government positions. The compromise is a further dilution of Ms. Merkel’s bold 2015 move to allow about a million refugees into Germany, which was subsequently softened by setting annual limits to curb inflows. As a junior partner in the current coalition, the SPD had expressed scepticism over the latest proposal, insisting that it fell outside the scope of the original agreement with the CDU. While echoing the concern that the transit centres not be reduced to internment camps, Ms. Merkel has given an assurance that people could not be held for long periods under the country’s constitution. Clearly, Germany’s major mainstream parties are faced with the dangers that liberal and centrist forces are up against across the EU and elsewhere. The number of refugee arrivals into Germany has fallen significantly since 2016. But the issue has acquired renewed urgency in view of elections scheduled for October in Bavaria. The CSU is anxious to arrest the erosion of its popular base in favour of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and has been lurching further to the right itself. The perilous consequences of that slant have been evident in several EU states, the hollowing out of the political middle-ground and strengthening of extreme forces. On the other hand, the reality of mass immigration today calls for a concerted approach on conflict resolution and respect for the rule of law.


1) Redeems

Meaning: Compensate for the faults or bad aspects of.

Example: “A disappointing debate redeemed only by an outstanding speech”

Synonyms: Save, Compensate for the defects of.

2) Assuring

Meaning: Make (something) certain to happen.

Example: “Victory was now assured”

3) Imputed

Meaning: Assign (a value) to something by inference from the value of the products or processes to which it contributes.

Example: “Recovering the initial outlay plus imputed interest”

4) Engaged

Meaning: Busy; occupied.

Synonyms: Busy, unavailable.

5) Pegged

Meaning: Fix (a price, rate, or amount) at a particular level.

Example: “The dividend was pegged at 23.59p”

Synonyms: Busy, unavailable.

6) Spearheaded

Meaning: Lead (an attack or movement).

Example: “He’s spearheading a campaign to reduce the number of accidents at work”

Synonyms: Lead, Head.

7) Protest

Meaning: A statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something.

Example: “The British team lodged an official protest”

Synonyms: Objection, Exception.

8) Distress

Meaning: extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.

Example: “To his distress he saw that she was trembling”

Synonyms: Anguish, Suffering.

9) Opted

Meaning: Make a choice from a range of possibilities.

Example: “Consumers will opt for low-priced goods”

Synonyms: Choose, Select.

10) Weary

Meaning: Feeling or showing extreme tiredness, especially as a result of excessive exertion.

Example: “He gave a long, weary sigh”

Synonyms: Tired, Tired out.

11) Admonished

Meaning: Advise or urge (someone) earnestly.

Example: “She admonished him to drink no more than one glass of wine”

Synonyms: Advise, Recommend.

12) Enforced

Meaning: Caused by necessity or force; compulsory.

Example: “A period of enforced idleness”

13) Procurement

Meaning: The action of obtaining or procuring something.

Example: “Financial assistance for the procurement of legal advice”

14) Suffice

Meaning: Be enough or adequate.

Example: “A quick look should suffice”

Synonyms: Be enough, Be sufficient.

15) Remuneration

Meaning: Money paid for work or a service.

Example: “They work in excess of their contracted hours for no additional remuneration”

Synonyms: Payment, Pay.

16) Endeavour

Meaning: Try hard to do or achieve something.

Example: “He is endeavouring to help the Third World”

Synonyms: Try, Attempt.

17) Outlay

Meaning: An amount of money spent on something.

Example: “A modest outlay on local advertising”

Synonyms: Expenditure, Expenses.

18) Gesture

Meaning: An action that expresses your feelings or intentions, although it might have little practical effect.

Example: “She gestured meaningfully with the pistol”

19) Concomitant

Meaning: Naturally accompanying or associated.

Example: “She loved travel, with all its concomitant worries”

Synonyms: Attendant, Accompanying.

20) Distortionary

Meaning: A distortion is “any departure from the ideal of perfect competition that therefore interferes with economic agents maximizing social welfare when they maximize their own”.

Example: “A proportional wage-income tax, for instance, is distortionary, whereas a lump-sum tax is not”  

21) Onerous

Meaning: (Of a task or responsibility) involving a great deal of effort, trouble, or difficulty.

Example: “He found his duties increasingly onerous”

Synonyms: Burdensome, Heavy.

22) Jeopardising

Meaning: Put (someone or something) into a situation in which there is a danger of loss, harm, or failure.

Example: “A devaluation of the dollar would jeopardize New York’s position as a financial centre”

Synonyms: Threaten, Endanger.

23) Inconclusive

Meaning: Not leading to a firm conclusion or result; not ending doubt or dispute.

Example: “Three years of inconclusive negotiations”

Synonyms: Indecisive, Proving nothing.

24) Reluctant

Meaning: Unwilling and hesitant; disinclined.

Example: “Today, many ordinary people are still reluctant to talk about politics”

Synonyms: Unwilling, Disinclined.

25) Reviving

Meaning: Restore to life or consciousness.

Example: “Both men collapsed, but were revived”

Synonyms: Resuscitate, Bring round.

26) Coalition

Meaning: A temporary alliance for combined action, especially of political parties forming a government.

Example: “A coalition between Liberals and Conservatives”

synonyms: Alliance, Union.

27) Avert

Meaning: Turn away (one’s eyes or thoughts).

Example: “She averted her eyes while we made stilted conversation”

Synonyms: Turn aside, Turn away.

28) Resolved

Meaning: Firmly determined to do something.

Example: “Constance was resolved not to cry”

Synonyms: Determined to, Bent on.

29) Turned back

Meaning: to return the same way that you came instead of continuing on your journey, or to make someone do this. Bad weather forced them to turn back. Example: “The actor was lampooned by the press”  

30) Odds

Meaning: The ratio between the amounts staked by the parties to a bet, based on the expected probability either way.

Example: “Nicer is starting at odds of 8-1”

31) Embodied

Meaning: Include or contain (something) as a constituent part.

Example: “The changes in law embodied in the Children Act”

Synonyms: Incorporate, Include.

32) Asylum

Meaning: The protection granted by a state to someone who has left their home country as a political refugee.

Example: “She applied for asylum and was granted refugee status”

33) Staunch

Meaning: very loyal and committed in attitude.

Example: “A staunch supporter of the anti-nuclear lobby”

Synonyms: Stalwart, Loyal.


34) Scepticism

Meaning: A sceptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something.

Example: “These claims were treated with scepticism”

Synonyms: Doubt, Doubtfulness.

36) Insisting

Meaning: Demand something forcefully, not accepting refusal.

Example: “She insisted on carrying her own bag”

Synonyms: Stand firm, Be firm.

37) Echoing

Meaning: (Of an object or event) be reminiscent of or have shared characteristics with.

Example: “A blue suit that echoed the colour of her eyes”

38) Renewed

Meaning: Resume (an activity) after an interruption.

Example: “The parents renewed their campaign to save the school”

Synonyms: Resume, Return to.

39) Anxious

Meaning: Feeling or showing worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.

Example: “She was extremely anxious about her exams”

Synonyms: Worried, Concerned.

40) Perilous

Meaning: Full of danger or risk.

Synonyms: Dangerous, Fraught with danger.

Example: “A perilous journey south”

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