I have been trying to understand the so-called farmers agitations & the bandh and could not get a concrete answer. I was searching in all kinds of media including secular, so called left leaning, liberal and right-wing and all I could get was this statement which reads.
“The government will have to accept our demands, we want nothing less than the withdrawal of new farm laws by so-called farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal.”
Researching further the point of contention was that they fear that MSP (Minimum Support Prices) would be discontinued by the Government leaving them at the mercy of the larger corporations. The Central Government has repeatedly assured the farmers that MSP would continue and would not be stopped but the agitators are adamant on asking MSP to be included in the bill. The reality is that MSP has always been devoid of legal backing. The MSP unlike subsidised grains through the PDS, isn’t an entitlement for farmers. They cannot demand it as a matter of right. MSP has always been an insurance for the farmers protecting them from a steep fall in the prices. But it has never been brought into the legal gambit by successive governments. It was the Congress party which brought about the MSP during the Green Revolution in 1960’s and if they had been serious about bringing MSP into the legal ambit they could have done so during their regime which lasted for several decades. Most of the experts including several former Agriculture Secretaries and Former Planning Commission Heads this demand looks to be unreasonable and not feasible. Mere assurances by the Union Government should be enough is the consensus.
The second bone of contention is that this bill allows the farmers to sell their produce outside of their states and anywhere in the country and they need not sell only in the local mandis. This has been in the 2019 manifesto of several parties including that of Congress and DMK and now they are protesting against the same which is mentioned in their manifesto. Either they don’t know what goes into their manifesto or they have forgotten their promises.
Even the former Agriculture Minister Shri. Sharad Pawar had gone on record during UPA regime that farmers must be able to sell even outside of APMC which means that farmers have more options now. Nowhere it is mentioned in the bill that APMC would be dismantled. It should be noted that it was during the NDA regime that the Model APMC Act was prepared in 2003. This act was the need of the hour 17 years back but as Lord Tennyson said,
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”
Hence it is time for change and from change comes evolution and transformation. It is to be also noted that there are no APMC markets in the LDF ruled Kerala and yet the left parties are in the forefront of these protests against this bill.
For those who unnecessarily drag corporates like Ambani & Adani as if they started their business only after 2014 it is to be noted that the 2003 act provides that legal persons (such as individuals, organizations and companies), growers and local authorities are permitted to apply for the establishment of new markets for agricultural produce in any area which means that it is an absolute lie that it is the 2020 bill which is allowing the corporate companies to enter into the agriculture market.
What this act however does is that it provides several options to the farmers to sell their produce based on the best price that they would be getting. More importantly it was Akali Dal who are protesting about this bill now who had blamed the then UPA Government in 2008 for not letting the wheat farmers to sell to private players there by incurring loss of over Rs. 4500 crores. Suddenly there seems to be a change of tune by every other opposition leader. It is also to be noted that some of the political bigwigs from the ruling party in Telangana sell vegetables worth crores of rupees to the corporates and they are shedding crocodile tears in the name of supporting farmers’ protests.
Even several news channels are showing that the real genuine farmers are appreciating the new policy which allows them to sell across the country.
Modernization & Technology:
Having been involved with the farm sector as a consultant and being an author of a book on ‘succeeding amidst global pandemonium’ titled “No Reference Point” I had the opportunity to interact with several leaders and do extensive research on agricultural practices and that leads me to believe that our farmers require modernization and embracement of technology to increase the output for which small farmers need access to technology and equipment which would guarantee profits. This would be possible when they collaborate with corporate organizations without putting their land at risk.
The Bill does provide the farmers with adequate protections where the contract agreement guarantees fixed price with the flexibility for the farmers to withdraw from the contract at any point without any penalty. There cannot be a bigger lie than what is being spread which is that the farmer’s land would be in the hands of companies while the truth is that this bill clearly prohibits sale, lease or mortgage of farmers’ land. The agreement would be only for the crops and not for land.
There was another propaganda that this bill does not protect the farmers in the event of any disputes and they would have nowhere to approach while it is clearly mentioned in the bill that in case of any dispute arising in such business, the matter would be settled within 30 days by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate.
The entire protest is a desperate attempt by the opposition parties to spread false information and create unrest in the country. It is becoming increasingly evident that it would be difficult for the opposition parties to electorally challenge BJP and hence every attempt is being made to spread lies, create fake narratives and stage protests. With a strong social media and robust connect with the citizens I am sanguine that the Government would thwart all these attempts and create an ecosystem where we can witness agriculture revolution and our farmers are equipped and empowered with better technology thereby transforming their livelihood.
Jai Jawan: Jai Kisan.
International Keynote Speaker,
Best Selling Author and Political Commentator