Farmer’s agitation for the last two months attracted a large amount of attention of the government, people and the whole nation. The remarkable feature of this agitation is that the most of its participants come from the state of Punjab.
The three Farm Bills were enacted as law last year by the government of Bharat to bring major reforms in the agriculture sector as a whole. The main focus of the Bills is to grant maximum freedom to the farmers from the existing unwanted bonding and to increase their capacity to add value to their produce and also to their income.
It is a known fact that the farmers in Bharat are the worst victims of ineffective policy in respect of the agriculture farming and the consequent marketing of their produce. The feudal farming was slowly and steadily replaced by the mandi governed agricultural produce and marketing in the states.
Over the last two decades, a large number of farmers felt forced to commit suicide throughout the length and breadth of the country. Their main reason to go for the worst was their financial condition.
The government of Bharat under the leadership of the PM Narendra Modi expressed its resolve umpteen times to improve the overall condition of the farmers. It was declared that the income of the farmers would be doubled by the year 2022; and an amount of Rs 6,000 is also being credited in the accounts of the farmers during a year in three equal instalments directly by the government of Bharat.
The Neem coated urea was supplied by the government to the farmers along with the subsidised fertilizers, chemicals and pesticides. It was ensured that the farmers are given a guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) and the established Mandis were supposed to procure the produce of the farmers without any procedural rigmarole.
It is an established fact that the farmers are not directly linked with the market of their produce and the mandis are playing the role of market for them. There is an APMC Act to regulate the smooth marketing for the farmers in the country.
The Model APMC Act, 2003 released to the states provides for the registration of contract farming agreements by an APMC. This was done to safeguard the interests of the producer and the buyer through legal support, including dispute resolution.
An Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) is a marketing board established by state governments in Bharat to ensure that the farmers are safeguarded from exploitation by large retailers, as well as ensuring the farmers so that the retail price spread does not reach excessively high levels.
The three Farm Bills allows the farmers of all hues to sell their produce outside the mandis, even from their farms, homes and roadside. It doesn’t wipe out the mandi system but it gives freedom to the farmers to select their produce, buyer and the price of their produce. Besides it, the Bills have also exempted the farmers from 18% levy of the central government.
It is throughout the country that the farmers’ issues have been dealt by the respective state governments and a lot of ease has been brought to the farmers by the governments over the last one decade. In some states, the farmers are already freed from the influence of the mandis while in the other states they continue to have an overwhelming influence.
The three Bills are a reformative initiative to provide all farmers an equal level playing field and freedom to choose their ways to produce and market their crops.
How and why, the farmers are then feeling agitated with the introduction of the three Bills? It requires to be understood in perspective.
First of all, it needs to be cleared that all the farmers throughout the country are not in support of the farmers agitation. It is only a category of farmers who are spearheading the agitation. They mainly come from Punjab, and marginally also from Haryana and Western UP.
In this agitation, unlike the earlier farmers agitations, the participation from Punjab is huge. Moreover, the agitation has also been found guided by certain political, separatist, extraneous and overseas elements. All these elements find one or the other reason to be associated with this uproar against Modi, BJP, government and the Farm Laws.
Once upon a time only four decades away before terrorism, Punjab used to be the frontline state of Bharat in a variety of ways. However, agriculture remained Punjab’s mainstay and it remained as one of the largest producers of both the paddy and wheat.
A large number of migrant workers from UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and MP are working as agriculture workers in the fields of Punjab and Haryana on payment as daily workers. Big and medium landlords in Punjab are involved in politics, business and overseas ventures to earn money while their fields are being taken care of by the migrant labour.
Congress and Akali Dal primarily have been at the centre of politics and governance in Punjab for the last five decades, thus have assumed big stakes in virtually everything in the state. BJP is a peripheral player while all other political parties are just a fill in the blanks.
The political players in Punjab and Haryana have a big stake in the mandis and their own men and women get elected or appointed in these high profile mandi mechanism. Then there are Commission Agents (Aardtiyas) in the mandis who have a complete nexus with the government officials in the mandis.
SGPCs at various levels are also a part of this huge nexus over the last several decades. The political figures who have high stakes in these mandis, the office bearers of the mandis, commission agents, government officials appointed in the mandis and the big and medium farmers are the regular donors of the SGPC and the Gurudwaras spread over Punjab and Haryana.
The existing system is hugely benefiting all these stakeholders for the last several decades. With the introduction of the reformative Farm laws by the central government, all these big and small stakeholders see a very uncertain future ahead of them though the original, small or medium farmers are at a great gain out of them.
The government’s fundamental and primary aim is to improve the condition of the farmers and they are least expected to strengthen the hegemony of a few or a large vested interest lobbies at the cost of farmers.
Moreover, there’s another strong lobby which benefits from the government’s inadequate stock pilling and store capacity in general, and particularly in Punjab. This is called the liquor lobby which purchases the rotten wheat from the government at a very nominal price to produce liquor in big volumes.
The raw material becomes available to them due to the inadequate and unscientific storage facility of the government concerned. The new land laws gives the responsibility of storage and piling of stocks to the private or corporate purchasers.
The main political players in the government and in the opposition in Punjab with big stakes in the APMC mandis see the farm laws as an end to their monopoly and control on the market and the gains it was bringing to them. They are not paying any heed to the oft repeated assurances given by the government in respect of MSP.
The way the Modi government is spreading the net of direct benefits to the common man and woman including the farmers in the country on all fronts is being seen by the opposition as a major threat to their electoral politics.
After having built 10 crores of toilets for the poor and needy, 2 crores of houses for the deserving, opening 50 crores of bank accounts of the down trodden poor sections of society with zero balance facility, giving crores of gas connections and free of cost to the millions of people, making the gas cylinders available at one ring, distributing free of cost rations to BPL families for 8 long months continuously last year, connecting every citizen of the country to the free of cost universal health scheme with Rs. 5 lakh family floater insurance cover under Ayushman Bharat and making available the generic medicines to all and sundry at a discount of 75%, the Modi government has taken a big lead in the socio-political scenario of the country.
Such things and reforms could have been brought by the others in the fray as well but they simply could not visualize the dreams which could be converted into reality to end poverty of the common masses.
All the so-called stakeholders particularly in Punjab see Farmers agitation as the only channel to achieve their chosen ends. Thus, it has been seen (for the first time in history) that an agitation is being provided with all kinds of facilities and luxuries unheard in the agitational history so far.
The moneys have been pumped to the unimaginable bounds with a big dimension of financing the international so-called celebrities in order to pressurise the government of Bharat. The separatist angle has also been added with a design to bring a religious colour into the whole issue. The traditional anarchist forces with the blend of Maoist-leftist orientation mixed with the Congress flavour is trying to sustain the political dissent with the finesse needed.
Both the PM and the Minister for Agriculture in the debate on Presidential address reiterated their commitment regarding MSP and the dialogue with the agitating farmers so far as the necessary amendments to the laws are concerned.
The demand of reversing the farm laws is a far cry that have no takers, either in the BJP, or in the government or in the media. The Apex court has also refused to reverse the laws. In such a situation, the violence unleashed on 26th January in the name of farmers protests has further brought a bad name not only to the protesters but also to the agitation. The unnecessary provocative sloganeering, statements and speeches have further damaged the spirit of the agitation.
To conclude, it would be advisable to enter into a dialogue with the government without conditions and bring forth the suggestions and amendments to the notice of the government directly to benefit the farming community and keep politics and politicking at a bay. Resolution is a near possibility while the backtracking from these laws is a distant dream. The choice remains wide open.
-Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo
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