Delhi [India] : “If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right in the country.” as M. S. Swaminathan, the agricultural geneticist from the Green Revolution said rightly, there is no doubt that Indian farmers have been shortchanged over the decades by successive governments. However, watching the ongoing farmer protests taking place on the borders of Delhi & the National Capital Region (NCR), one thing is clear that the exploitation of farmers at the hands of political vested interests continues to this day.
Affected by this realization, eminent policymaker, top strategist, and Founder of the Corona Task Force (ACTF), Dr. Krishan Jha, has put forth the solutions to resolve the deadlock that continues to prevail between the protesting farmers and the establishment despite several rounds of talks have taken place. For starters, Dr. Jha is of the opinion that the protests being carried out in the name of farmers all over India are, in reality, mostly political in nature and limited only to a few states like Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.
However, before going any further, let us look at the New Farm Bills brought by the Centre, which have faced vast political opposition, not just from the traditional foes of BJP but also from Akali Dal, BJP’s long-standing friend of 25 years. The 3 main points of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 – let’s simplify the name of the Bill to ‘APMC bypass Bill’ – are –
- 1)Farmers can store the food grains and can sell them whenever they want.
- 2)Companies and farmers can trade with each other directly. No need to sell the agricultural product only in Mandis (traditional markets).
- 3)Companies can also make a direct agreement with farmers and can do contract farming.
The Government of India (GOI) is confident that these changes will profit the farmers and also free them of the vicious cycle devised by a corrupt network of buying-selling of the produce.
The law, before the reforms, dictated that the farmers could not store food grains for more than certain days. However, after the reforms, there is going to be no cap on the storage of basic commodities except for in case of emergency circumstances.
With more than 14.5 crore agricultural operations running in India, employing 86% as small farmers and peasants (owners of less than 5 acres of land), it is no surprise that the economic situation of this majority of farmers is weak, with many of them living under huge financial burdens. As a result, they just cannot afford to store their produce in wait of the right price or demand till later. They will have to sell their crop right after harvest. It will be the corporate companies who will end up buying, storing, or selling further the produce, thus, earning a handsome profit, owing to their economic hegemony.
The GOI has not shown any intention of building new cold-storage units, which would either enable the farmers to store their product free of cost or would allow the government to purchase the crop and store it itself. So, by hook or crook, the GOI seems to have allowed the corporate companies a free pass to play havoc at the agriculture market.
Dr. Jha questions, “The government is telling that farmers will surely get profits by these reforms, then, why can’t they give the guarantee in the bill itself? Mention in the bill also, that farmers will get a minimum 50% profit as mentioned in your manifesto. Why don’t you assure?”
Another bone of contention remains the MSP, which also finds no mention in the bills, even though PM Narendra Modi has already assured that MSP is not going anywhere. Seemingly, the farmers are unable to believe the PM’s assurance. Expressing his opinion about the bills, Dr. Jha says categorically, “The new Farm Bill seeks to loosen rules around the sale, pricing, and storage of farm produce. These rules have protected India’s farmers from the free market for decades. The Bill also allows private buyers to hoard essential commodities for future sales, which only government-authorized agents could do now; and they outline rules for contract farming, where farmers tailor their production to suit a specific buyer’s demand.”
Talking about his concerns regarding the bills and the way it is creating a rift in the society, Dr. Jha says, “I am also a farmer’s son so I am eligible to question. In the existing system, farmers take their produce to the Mandis first, where they sell it. However, if they have to sell it anywhere outside the Mandis, where will they store it till they find a buyer on their own? Isn’t it obvious that in absence of storage space at disposal to most of the small farmers, it is most likely that the crop will be sold at highly unsustainable rates? Also, why is it so hard for the government to include MSP into the Bill in a written form?”
Amidst the fears that the private sector will take over the agriculture sector in the next 5 years, the farmer protests are showing no sign of abating in the near future.
The Iron Man of India, Sardar Patel, once said, “If anyone has the right to walk on this earth with their head held high, it’s the farmer of the country who produces the wealth of the earth.”
Even after 73 years of Independence, the Indian farmer is not free to choose where and to whom he should sell his produce. As for the farmer protests and the new 3 Bills, it seems there is still a lot of ground to be covered between the establishment and the farmers till a middle point is reached.
Agitating farmers unions have called for a nationwide strike on Tuesday to press for repeal of the union government’s agri laws that is likely to have an impact in major parts of the country.
The farmer leaders have however said that no one should be forced to join the shutdown. As per theanalysis, there are over 15 crore farmers however, various parties who are politicising the entire issue will expectedly impact the lives of over 138 crore Indians.
The Analysis further says that an estimated Rs 32 thousand crore loss is borne by the Indian economy due to a single day bandh. Though this is just an assumptive estimate while the real cost may be even more.
Calling out for Bharat Band and declaring Chakka Jam from 11Am to 3Pm amidst Covid-19 and protests, gave out grave results of loss. Now we are seeing that lots of different groups from Punjab are making Bharath Band and enforcing government to agree on their condition. That’s not right, there is a law for this and all have to follow proper protocols. If they are not happy with the law, protest in the right way, don’t trouble common people.
Home Minister Amit Shah to have a talk with the farmers today on the bill for negotiations and to bring the matter to rest. A delayed negotiation will be a loss negotiation.