The Farmers’ Agitation


Normally I don’t like to write on political or controversial topics, but I can no longer control my feelings.

The issue is farmers’ agitation, which has now gone out of proportion in all aspects, defying all logic. In a democracy, everybody has a right to protest, but who has given right to obstruct other citizens by blocking roads?

In the Shaheen Bagh case, the Supreme Court had barred all such protest demonstrations in public places other than in designated areas specifically earmarked for the purpose.

But the agitating farmers don’t listen to the reasons. They are blocking all roads leading to Delhi, and now are crossing all limits by planning to take out tractor march side by side on 26th January to disrupt the Republic Day Parade.

WHAT ARE THE 3 FARM BILLS?
The first farm bill creates a national framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to production. The second bill permits intra and inter-state trade of produce beyond the physical premises of Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis (markets). The third bill seeks to remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potato from the list of essential commodities.

Despite its good intentions to modernise the long stagnant farm sector, to infuse private capital and modern technology for higher yields per acre, the Government finds itself stymied by the vested interests, which have spread baseless rumours regarding these proposals.

WHY AGITATION?
The agitation is against the three farm bills with demand to repeal all of them. The Government is not ready to repeal, as it is beneficial to the vast majority of farmers residing in states other than Punjab and Haryana.

The Government is however open to discuss the bills point by point to remove any misgivings, and if needed, to bring out the necessary amendments too. But the agitators want either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ , and the Government is in mood to oblige.

BUT TALKS CONTINUE
I don’t know why the talks between the Government and the so-called farmers still continue, when both sides have made their stands clear and not ready to budge an inch.

Then who is befooling whom by keeping the talks on? Talks and preparations to intensify agitation are going side by side.

To my mind, even after finding itself trapped in a cul de sac, the Government wants to show that they are open to talks, while the so-called farmers wish to obviate chances of any court’s intervention, where they can’t prove their logic. But why the Government is permitting them to continue with the bluff and nuisance of the so-called farmers?

The longer the seige of the capital continues, the greater is the danger of misdirected agitation snowballing into a much bigger conflict. Already professional protesters, unscrupulous elements and rootless and poll-rejected politicians have hijacked the agitation. They don’t want solution, but confrontation, to come back to limelight.

THE SO-CALLED FARMERS
Why these farmers are being referred to as so-called? Because they are not farmers in true sense. Farmers have been categorised into marginal (land-holding below 1.0 hectare), small (1.0-2.0 hectare), semi-medium (2.0-4.0 hectare), medium (4.0-10.0 hectare) and large (above 10 hectare).

Most of the agitators are from Punjab, have land holdings of more than 100 hectares, and hire landless labourers from Bihar, Bengal and UP to work on their fields. They enjoy all the benefits of greedy ‘arhtiyas’, who earn hefty commissions gratuitously from the obligatory procurement of wheat and paddy in the Food Corporation of India, and have taken the farmers in their grip. The Government wants to do away with such bichauliyas (middlemen), who are extending critical support to the ongoing farmers’ agitation.

Just see their comforts during agitation. They are in tents, but good luxurious ones, along with mattresses, quilts, chairs, foot massagers and what not. Delicious meals and snacks are being served along with drinks, lassi and variety of sweets. They have already claimed that they have brought provisions for the next six months.

Now compare this with those farmers and agricultural labourers, who find it difficult to get two square meals. I have seen myself the plight of farmers in a state like Bihar, where you will hardly get 4 to 5 tractors in a village,
while these agitators are taking out tractor march. The divide is obvious.

The fact is that 70% of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) allocation goes to just two states, Punjab and Haryana, where these well-off agitators come from, while only 7 to 8% of the country’s total farming population lives there.

Moreover, the largest producer of wheat is UP with 32% followed by Punjab with 18%, MP with 16% and Haryana with 11%. Similarly the largest contributor of rice (paddy) is West Bengal with 13% followed by Punjab with 12% and Haryana with just 4%.

Huge cash bounty to Punjabi farmers has made them relaxed, as wheat and paddy require one time effort at the times of sowing and cutting. They enjoy subsidy on electricity, water and fertilizers too. They don’t move to fruits and vegetables, as it requires labour on day-to-day basis.

But rice and wheat producers are not the only farmers. What about fruits and vegetable producers, producers of chilli and spices, pulses, oilseeds, tubers, rubber, cotton and sugarcane! Are not they farmers? Shouldn’t their interests be protected?

A guaranteed MSP, if any, should be for small farmers only with landholding upto 2 hectare only, and not for those affluent ones who enjoy all benefits and facilities including subsidies and income tax exemption.

WHY STALEMATE?
The Government is concerned about the plight of all farmers including the majority of those residing in poor states like Bihar, UP and Odisha, while agitation takes care of affluent section only. These rich farmers are represented by more than 40 Kisan Unions, almost all affiliated to political parties. They are being dictated and misguided by their political masters to keep their political agenda alive.

The Government has to talk with a crowd of leaders represented by more than 40 unions. They can’t elect 4 or 5 representatives to discuss in a peaceful manner, as they are suspicious of one another. If one shows some inclination to consider with an open mind, others just pull him back.

They don’t want their concerns to be addressed properly in an open atmosphere, but want simply a showdown with the Government, to score a point for their political masters.

The fashionable and professional protesters “I’m with Annadata (farmer)” don’t talk sense. NRI Punjabis and some foreign sympathisers are also making song and dance about this fake farmers’ agitation. They want to create nuisance and anarchy in this country. And what a threat! If the government doesn’t succumb to the illegal demands, then the Punjabi Sikhs will turn to Khalistan ideology.

Pathetic is the role of opposition parties. They criticise every move of the government, even at the cost of going anti-national or anti-people. This is precisely the reason why they are continuously losing their vote banks. I remember Indira Gandhi, who was dislodged after emergency, but she never sounded like anti-national or anti-people. And therefore, she came back to power within the next three years.

The rigidity on the part of agitation leaders shows an extraneous agenda at work, not farmers’ welfare and willingness to find a mutually acceptable solution.

WHAT NEXT?
It’s not Annadata or farmer, it’s just about money for the privileged sections, who enjoy the booty at the cost of the deprived ones.

This fake farmers agitation is all about the large landholders protecting their free lunch set up over the last 40 years, with the support of political parties, who have miserably lost elections after elections. Is it a democratic way to put forth demand?

The confrontation seems to be imminent. The Government is not going to retrace it’s steps. The agitation on the other hand has been hijacked by the unscrupulous elements. The agitation is assuming a serious proportion. It will be a saving grace for both sides, if the Supreme Court steps in to intervene.



–Kaushal Kishore

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for your encouraging words. Today or tomorrow, the Supreme Court will pronounce some decision. Let’s hope for the best.

    Like

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