“I am a pakka kisan! [real farmer] The BJP-regime would have you believe that the protesters are not farmers,” says Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha Vice President G. T. Ramaswamy, asking, “They claim that Southern states do not support the farmers’ struggle when delegations have already visited the Singhu border. How can the government claim we are lying?”
Sitting for the December 30, 2020 Bengaluru indefinite strike, Ramaswamy questioned the insensitivity of the Union government towards farmers’ demands to repeal the Centre’s farm laws to SabrangIndia.
The state leader recently returned to Karnataka with a delegation of 30 people visiting the Delhi border to oppose the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance & Farm Services Act, the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act and the Electricity Bill 2020.
Despite the long journey, Ramaswamy attended the Tuesday protest at the state capital’s Maurya Circle to express dissent along with other state farmers, workers, Dalits and women’s groups – a coalition of farmers’ supporters who are largely neglected by the mainstream media.
Like every other protest site, the Bengaluru protest point has stood with Delhi farmers since December 16, in their opposition to the anti-farm laws.
“We have already told the government that we will intensify the struggle from January 1, 2021 if farmers’ demands are not met. We do not want any amendments but the complete repeal of these laws,” said Ramaswamy, exposing the government’s lies that Southern states are not invested in the farmers’ protest.
Regarding these claims by the Union government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ramaswamy shared his views and arguments with SabrangIndia. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
Karnataka farmers already suffered due to irregularities in APMCs and the lack of it following state amendments. How do you view the Centre’s laws considering this?
APMCs do have problems. For example, dalals (commission agents) often make farmers pay for the transport of their products from the market to the buyer’s location. Technically, the dalal handing the slip to the farmer should take care of such costs but they refuse. Laws should be changed in such a manner that these commission agents are made more responsible about payments. Policies should protect farmers from making unnecessary payments.
Considering this, how would you respond to the central government’s claims of removing the middle man?
Just because someone has a sprain in their finger doesn’t mean you cut off their entire hand! The APMCs needed revisions not these new laws. The government is lying about the benefits of these laws. Modi is also lying. He had talked about implementing the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report. Where are those recommendations?
What are your concerns about the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 that allows farmers to enter into contract farming?
Marginal and small farmers won’t be able to handle contracts with corporates. Recently the government has also done away with electricity subsidies. Farmers also struggle to gain irrigation and other facilities necessary for farming. How will these farmers fulfil the terms under these contracts? They will lose out.
It is noteworthy, that Karnataka farmers have also been protesting the changes to the Land Reforms Act of 1961 prior to decrying the three farm laws. The new policy puts farmers at risk of losing their farmland to non-agriculture entities. The 2020 amendment dismisses Section 79(A) and 79(B) of the original Act that prohibited acquisition of land to those who received an assured annual income of not less than Rs.2,00,000 from sources other than agricultural lands.
In light of this, will there be a double effect on state farmers?
Of course, there will be a double effect on farmers. In addition to losing the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) like the rest of Indian farmers, Karnataka farmers are also at a greater risk of losing their land.
What you say about the mainstream media claims that the southern states do not have a strong opposition against these laws?
The media is sold to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government. They do not cover the protests happening here. Therefore, we are thinking of reaching out to people through mobile phone messages and other social media routes to talk to them about the farm laws.
Modi only wants to help big corporate people like Adani and Ambani. Look at Jio then look at BSNL, the railway and airplane sectors once they were handed over to the private sector. They were all ruined.
Also, if every public sector becomes privatised where are Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes people supposed to go? How will they earn a living? The BJP government would be hard-pressed to win elections if the majority of people understand these problems.
Then, would you say that the majority of Karnataka farmers are protesting these laws?
Sadly, no. Right now, not even 20 percent of farmers in the state are aware about these laws. There are various reasons for this. For one, we had gram panchayat elections and farmers had to make the most of the harvesting season. However, this does not dismiss the fact that people from all areas of Karnataka are travelling to protest sites.
I myself suffered a death in my family but I have returned here because the problem cannot be avoided. Wherever there is a BJP government, farmers are suffering.
How have urban people responded to the farmers’ protest?
Urban people do not understand our cause. They think farmers have entered cities to cause a ruckus. Farmers are the ones who provide food on the table. Yet instead of becoming cognisant of this, urbanites are riled up against farmers by the government and media. This has created hate in their minds towards farmers.
However, we will not give up. The government claims that the people protesting are not farmers. Let me ask Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Modiji – what do you know about farming? Are you farmers? Have you ever worked at a farm? I am a real farmer who has worked in the fields. How can you say that I and other farmers are lying?