Farmers’ protest fully justified

Our own survival depends on what the farmers grow; if they survive, we will survive!
farmers protest
Image: Karuna John / SabrangIndia

Farmers had a very successful Tractor Rally on January 26 in Delhi. The attempt to malign their non-violent effort, through the Red Fort violent incident, is a standard tactic the Government uses through their supporters masquerading as farmers. What the Government fails to realise that the farmers’ protest has now spread to all parts of the country and more and more people are supporting the farmers. The absurdity of FIR against non-violent Ms Medha Patekar and Sri Yogendra Yadav for inciting violence speaks for itself. 

The Government must realise that a large majority of people have rejected the Farm Laws, and the Government must accept the inevitable and forego their ego. How can we displease the bread-givers who toil day and night to keep us fed and healthy. Their protest is fully justified and all of us support them in this endeavour. In the end they will win, and the sooner the Government scraps those Corporate-favouring Laws, the better.

Farmers in the country are agitating against the three Farmers’ Bills passed by the Government without any consultation with the stakeholders and the opposition political parties. The Government claims that it is good for the farming community whereas the farmers think otherwise. There is a stalemate and the Modi Government is adamant that the Bills will be implemented come what may. In this situation temperature is rising to the detriment of the nation. Let us think coolly about the situation.

Quoting from the Swaminathan Report on Agriculture of 2006:

“To those who are hungry, God is Bread – Mahatma Gandhi, 1946
Everything else can wait, but not agriculture – Jawaharlal Nehru, 1947

A majority of the hungry live in rural India and also depend on agriculture for
their  livelihood.”

Our own survival depends on what the farmers grow. They are our important lifeline. If they survive we will survive. Hence their well-being should be our prime concern. Over three lakh farmers have committed suicide over past years, and we do not seem to be worried. They have committed suicides because they have been unable to pay back the loans taken for their farming and this is because the price obtained for their produce has not been able to give them the profits envisaged.

An industrial goods manufacturer calculates the cost of manufacturing, adds overhead costs and then puts a price on the goods after adding the amount of profit he desires to make. Thus he is ensured of the profit amount and the loan repayment if any.

In the case of the farmer, a lot has been said and discussed about the Minimum Support Price (MSP). MSP has to be the price based on cost of farming plus 50%. Once the correct MSP has been determined for the crop it is the Government’s duty to buy the crops at the agreed MSP rates to keep the farmers alive.

The Farmers’ agitation has focused on two points, namely scrapping the Farm Laws and fixing the MSP of the crops. There is great fear among the farmers that once the Laws are enacted they will be at the mercy of the Corporates and India will gradually shift to Corporate Farming. Also doing away with MSP will endanger the farming community against the financial might of the Corporates. Farming community and the farmers will at the end have to give up farming.

As Kavya Datla writes in Down to Earth in an article entitled: ‘Farm Laws 2020: Who are they meant to serve’ –

“It is also difficult to ensure that the big corporates do not enslave the already marginalised farmers. By allowing both verbal and written contracts, the Centre places the farmers at the vulnerable end of the bargain with no redress.
It is highly likely that big corporates bury the farmers in an avalanche of legal resources. There is no denying that there is a widely disproportionate access to legal resources between farmers and corporates and there seems to be no real law in place to safeguard the interests of the farmers.
Both farmers and consumers run the risk of exploitation by placing the market in the hands of big businesses.
To build trust among farmers and the states would be to include a mandate for MSP, as recommended by the Swaminathan Committee, within the ambit of the bills. Another would be to plug the holes in the current system instead of trying to dismantle and introduce a new structure.”

The Farmers’ Agitation has awakened the population about the problems farmers face and of which the city-dwellers are unaware of. Supporting the farmers is like supporting our food giver. Lakhs of farmers committing suicide has not made news headlines, and over 130 farmers dying in the current Protest has not made the news item either. Thanks to the various social organisations and NGOs and awakened public these facts are now being circulated although the Government pretend to be deaf to the reality. All of us must unite and force this Government to cancel the draconian Farm Laws hurriedly enacted. 

Jai Kisan! Long Live our Farmers and their families!

*The author is convener of Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas



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