It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
–Charles Darwin, 1809
This is the only reason why Indian National Congress’ extinction is inevitable. The party is simply not willing to let go off the practices that fructified handsomely in the past.
Protests, Demonstrations, Dharnas, Bandhs were, are and will always remain ways to seek attention; attention of people in the city, the state, the country and the world. But that’s it, nothing more nothing less. Some people are protesting now. The entire world has their undivided attention, everybody is looking at them, we all are listening and waiting for what they have to say. Now what?
What happens next is quite different from what used to happen earlier. The world in the current times, does not blindly believe in what the protesters or demonstrators say or claim. Whatever they say can be and is thoroughly scrutinized and verified. Internet provides easy access to a variety of information sources. We are living in the age of information fueled by cheap internet and are not dependent on a handful sources of information like television or news papers to keep ourselves up-to-date.
Congress today claims that the government is trying to get rid of the APMC Mandis and MSP. Even though I strongly disagree with this (I wrote a separate article pointing out the very reason why the government irrespective of the ruling party in Indian cannot even think of getting rid of APMC and MSP), but lets assume for the sake of an argument that BJP is indeed trying to eliminate MSP and APMC Mandis. How is it any different than what congress had wanted? Below is the screenshot from Congress’ 2019 election manifesto. Point 11 of the topic 7 – Agriculture, Farmers and Farm Labour on page number 17:
Not just this, Point 21 on the next page in the very same manifesto says this:
Now, why does the congress call it an anti-farmer bill when the recent one of the three bills related to Essential Commodities Act, does exactly the same thing?
In addition to this, I found something interesting in the manifesto. Point number 16
How? Ask a simple question, how will Congress encourage farmers for Crop Diversification?
With exorbitant mandi charges, taxes and commissions in the APMC Mandis, private players were complete thrown out in the states like Punjab. The government provides MSP on only 22 crops, how will you promote crop diversification and encourage farmers to grow crops outside the 22 MSP supported crops? The government will and can never procure all the crops and so will never provide MSP on all the crops. Find an answer to this diversification problem without using private players, I will be more than interested in listening to you.
Moreover, this does not end here. Crop diversification is a very critical issue. What happens when you keep growing the same crop over and over again? The productivity decreases! Following is the crop yield (kg / hectare) comparison for selected crops in different countries. The table is from the Swaminathan report. You can see, India’s productivity is the lowest.
This is one of the biggest problems in Punjab. Farmers grow, wheat and rice, wheat and rice, wheat and rice over and over again. Principle of Crop rotation did not come into existence in 2014 and has nothing to do with Modi or Ambani or Adani. More and more fertilizers are being required to furnish the soil with the necessary nutrients. Growing rice needs a lot of water, the ground water in Punjab is depleting at the highest rate in India as per Dynamic Ground Water Resources, 2017 report. At the current rate of depletion, Punjab’s entire subsurface water resource could be exhausted in a little over two decades. In short, the productivity is decreasing and the cost of farming (electricity, tube wells, fertilizers etc.) is increasing. Punjab’s Agri-GDP grew by 5.7% a year in 1971-72 to 1985-86 versus India’s 2.3%; both Punjab and India grew at roughly the same 2.9-3% in 1986-87 to 2004-05, but in the period since then Punjab’s agri-GDP grew at just 1.9% versus India’s 3.5%.
Let me ask you one more question, who is suffering more? Who is committing suicide? A farmer with a large holding, more wealth or a poor farmer with a small holding?
As soon as these three bills come into play, the farmers with small land holdings, the poor farmers would be the first ones to move out of the APMC mandis, willingly, on their own and change crops from the MSP supported crops like wheat and paddy to the ones which would reduce their input costs. Even in a worst case scenario where they get prices less than expected and the private players are pure evils as they are portrayed, they would make more profits because their input costs would be substantially reduced along with commissions and mandi charges eliminated.
Commission agents would clearly lose with these bills, farmers selling to private buyers means no commission for the middlemen. The state would also lose a lot of money in the form of mandi charges and taxes, Punjab charges 14.5%, the highest in the country. PDS in India is an open ended procurement i.e. when the grain arrives, it is procured even if the government storages are on full capacity and there is no demand. This means it is a safe bet for a farmer who can overlook the input costs. In one line the nexus between the wealthy farmers with large land holding, commission agents and the state is threatened. This is why you see people from Canada and Australia protesting on streets. Have you ever seen a poor person let alone a poor farmer sending his kids to study/live in Canada and Australia?
This does not end yet. 22 out of 28 states in India have already legalized Contract farming by tweaking one or the other provision of the model APMC Act, 2003, which by the way was again brought to life by NDA government under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. If Congress had a problem with contract farming as it would force farmers to be on the mercy of private players, why didn’t it do anything about it in the ten years of its honest and farmers friendly rule from 2004 to 2014? Now it has a problem when the current government is trying to standardize and bring uniformity among different states so as to make it one nation one market.
It looks to me that Indian National Congress is trying to create chaos, crisis and spoil the decorum of the country for its political benefit. You will find them saying “there have been so many protests and riots in last years.” The party knows very well that these reforms were long due. Swaminathan Commission filed all its reports before 2007, but the UPA government had no intent to do anything of the report. Why? Because they knew there would be some people who would not like it. Now they are trying to exploit the situation for their own politics. Its always the same, they made situations worse by dragging issues for decades be it 370, CAA, NRC, Ram Mandir or these bills. BJP fixed them all in just six years. At least now we move on to other issues.
Why blame only Congress, a dozen other political parties are doing the same thing. It looked as if Bharat Bandh was more visible in the state of Bihar. These farm bills were brought to life in July/Aug time frame. I wrote an article (Farm Bills 2020) in Sep about the same. But Tejashwi Yadav, who is now on streets protesting, whose party workers are now burning tires, had no words to say against the bill in the elections that happened in Bihar just a month ago. As a matter of fact, even after massive internal differences, NDA won the majority and the highlight was that BJP not only won its own conventional seats but also the seats that had Yadav and Muslim dominance. You must read The reality of Bihar Election Results analysis. Isn’t it ironic that the same farmers who were supposedly unhappy because of shutting of APMC Mandis in Bihar as claimed by various political parties, voted for BJP?
K Kavitha, daughter of K. Chandrashekhar Rao, sister of K.T. Rama Rao, running a family enterprise, now claims that the bills are anti-farmers. Her party TRS, just lost 40 plus of its conventional seats to BJP in GHMC elections. There were tons of local elections in Rajasthan recently, Jila Parishad & Jila Panchayat types, even when INC is the ruling party, BJP kept winning. Who are these people who are against the bills but some how go ahead and vote for the very party that came up with these so-called anti-farmer, anti-everything bills?
The Dharna queen of Indian Politics Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, on one hand is supporting the protest and the protesters but on the other hand was one of the firsts to implement The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, as notified on November 23.
I can keep going on and on and on and just increase the length of this blog by adding pictures and screenshots. Sharad Pawar wanted to get rid of the regressive provisions of APMC act within six months and invite private players in the market. But now he is against the very same reforms.
At the end of the day, it is the information that matters. This farmers Protest brought spotlight to their issues, and Congress exposed itself.
I did not have to move an inch away from my desk to get the necessary reports, documents, etc. to verify the claims made. Thanks to internet! No need to remember anything, who said what, when, where and in what condition; just search. That’s it!
Rahul Gandhi goes to ten different rallies and comes up with ten different variants of the very same thing. He forgets that it is twenty first century and not his dadi’s era. People in those rallies most probably have seen his videos as to what he said in a different place even before he opens his mouth on the stage. If it was not for the internet, I would have convinced myself that since there are so many people protesting outside, the bills must be flawed, and since some shops were shut, the bandh was successful. Now, every one has a camera in his pocket, the smart phone. Before the media even reaches the markets, the videos of party workers threatening and forcing the shop owners to shut the shops were all over the internet, be it whatsapp, facebook, twitter, youtube, v-blogs and countless other places. Infact the mainstream media also telecasts the same videos created by faceless individuals. In addition to this, CCTV footages would have definitely exposed a lot of hooliganism in case these videos weren’t available.
The farmers protest and Bandhs failed because the leader and parties are simply caught lying and spreading fake news. All the parties supporting these irrelevant protests will lose their vote shares as and when they go for elections. Congress’s strong bastion in the name of Punjab slipping out of its hands in 2022 might just be the last nail in the coffin.
Thanks for reading!!!