Recently I saw a tv debate where a congress youth politician gave a theory on how the BJP lead government by bringing three farm bills is indirectly trying to kill MSPs and APMC Mandis. His theory was something like this:
“According to the current bills, there will be no fees/cess/mandi charges levied on the sale/purchase in the trade areas outside the APMC mandis but these charges will be applicable within the Mandi premises. See, to understand the evil plot of the government you have to think about a few years in the future. In a condition like this no body will go to the APMC Mandis and they will automatically die out by themselves. Moreover, the government is not assuring MSPs in the trade areas outside APMC Mandis. This means that the farmers would receive a price less than what they deserve and they would be on a mercy of a few private players. That is why these are anti-farmer laws“.
You must have also heard theories like this on television and on other social media platforms. They look quite convincing on the first glance. But there are major flaws in the inferences drawn. Once I mention a few points that are not being mentioned in theories like these, I am confident all my readers will agree with me.
Let me ask you a very basic question, what does the government do with the crops procured at the MSP from farmers? MSP is one part of the transaction, i.e. the procurement process. What is the other part? It is not like the government is buying the crops at MSP and just keeping it in the store house. Is it? The other part of the transaction is PDS, the Public Distribution System i.e. the subsidized and free ration for poor. Have you heard PDS or public distribution system or National Food Security Act 2013 in the last few weeks?
As per the National Food Security Act of 2013, two thirds of the India’s total population is covered under this right to food act. The government is legally obliged to fulfil this food requirement, its not a choice or an option for the government, the government has to do it. How will the government of India arrange wheat/rice and other grains for more than 800 million people without APMC Mandis? Do the people floating these theories think that the government of India is so naive that it would buy grains from the private players at a higher price than the price they would have got if they bought from the farmers in an APMC Mandi?
MSP and PDS are two parts of the same transaction. They have to be looked in tandem, either both of them stay or both of them go. That is the only reason why you haven’t heard of PDS in the current discussions. Every politician, every media house, every intellectual knows this for a fact that no government irrespective of the party, be it Congress or BJP or anyone else, can not, I repeat can not get rid of the PDS; not now, not in five years, not in a decade, not until there are poor people in India. If poor exist only as a phrase to be used in election campaigns, subsidized ration and PDS stay, if PDS stays APMC Mandis stay because they are the only means the government can control the prices. In an entirely private setup where the government can not set a minimum price, it would go bankrupt in an attempt to provide subsidized grains. By the way, one of the biggest reasons why BJP is winning elections back to back is its corruption free (almost) Public Distribution and Direct Benefit Transfers schemes, it would never let go of these two things. Its another thing that whenever BJP wins some people claim that it was because of polarization. Please have a look at the two links to know how BJP is winning elections.
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Moreover, why would farmers switch to the private players if they are so happy with the Mandis? If private players won’t pay as desired by the farmer, why won’t the farmer go back to the Mandi? And if farmers continue selling their produce within the Mandis, there won’t be the issue of Mandis getting extinct. Would it?
The hypothetical theory presented by certain people has no logical base. This is fear mongering and fake news paddling at its best.
It does not matter how long these people block the roads in the name of a protest, the government is not going to remove even a single dot from the bills, forget abrogating the entire bills (the government might append some regulations in the bills for added safeguards but the law would remain as-is).
Simply because they can’t and they shouldn’t. If they do it even once, for every other bill they plan to enact in the near future there would be a massive protest and the government will then have to change or repeal it. If the government caves in this pressure, then if anybody would want to get rid of a law, he/she would just need to muster enough crowd and block a few roads in and around Delhi for a few weeks, and that’s all. In short he/she just needs a lot of money. Now imagine, what all things we could do walking on this path. Moreover, you don’t even have to imagine, just look before 2014 what all things we achieved using the exact same strategy.
Moreover, if the laws and acts are going to be decided by protests, why do we need a parliament? Indian Constitution provides ample options to the state government to challenge the bills enacted by the central government in the court of law. Why are the state governments not challenging the bills in the legal way? Do they not have lawyers? Or do they already know that they will lose? And if they are going to the court then why the need of protest? Political mileage, is it?
What we are witnessing now in the name of protest and demonstration is a mockery of democracy and nothing more than that.
I know for certainty that this is neither a coalition government nor a weak, feeble, stupid government. It will not fall in this loop, the government did not move an inch on 370 or CAA or demonetization or any thing else and it would not budge in this case too.
The more pressing concern now is, how is this going to end?
The supreme court in a three judges bench passed a judgement on Oct 7, 2020 in the context of Shaheen Bagh protest. It clearly deemed the protests blocking roads illegal and asked the administration to take actions to clear the blockades. You can read the complete judgement here. The important point #19:
19. We have thus no hesitation in concluding that such kind of occupation of public ways, whether at the site in question or anywhere else for protests is not acceptable and the administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of encroachments or obstruction.
Even though the governments can take actions to clear the blockades, they won’t.
Punjab’s Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh came on record and called it a national security issue but Congress’ national leadership at the very same time keeps fueling the agitation. INC has absolutely nothing to lose, they are already at their very worse in terms of electoral performances, if this gamble pays for them it is a win-win for them. (I am going to write a separate article on why the CM said so, he was a member of the high powered committee that framed the three ordinances. Just a hint for now: MSP is available for only 22 crops in India, around 90% farmers haven’t even used this facility till date).
Arvind Kejriwal and his party has a readymade template for issues like these, Delhi police takes orders from the center; he has successfully used it in the past and will use it now. If the center uses the force, he will say the center is fascist and is trying to crush the protest by force and if the center doesn’t, then why didn’t center clear the roads before things went out of hand? In addition to this, Mr. Kejriwal and his deputy has already started the political games, they have already started targeting Captain Amarinder Singh, if this gamble pays for them it is a win win for them in the 2022 Punjab elections.
Unless something is done, this year is going to end exactly like it started with massive riots. People would tolerate blockades for a while, and then people supporting the bill would come on streets and get the blockaded cleared by themselves. Of course it would be very easy to put all the blame on some Kapil Mishra and of course it is just normal to call BJP anti-minority. No body asks what events lead to 2002, everybody just blatantly says riots happened. Twenty years down the line, no body would ask why riots in 2020 happened, everybody would blatantly say riots happened. And BJP was responsible for them!
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Every responsible citizen who can read and write, should read the three bills thoroughly, you can get links to the bills as well as the clauses in question here: Farm Bills 2020 and spread awareness. Share, tweet, copy, paste, I don’t care but spread the awareness.
Thanks for reading!!!
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Also read: Farmers’ woes Part 1: Irrigation and Transportation