The farmers protest for over 40-days in Delhi and the continued impasse, is basically due to lack of knowledge/understanding by the farmers in true perspective about the three Farm Bills. This is not to say without any empathy for the striking farmers in the biting cold of Delhi’s winter. Some of them have lost their lives in the due process. Of course, it is pathetic.
For those who view young and old farmers that have come on tractors and camping on make-shift tents, in boundaries of Delhi, do have their grievances. Rightly, the central government is trying its best to address their concern and fears. In that direction the Centre has made many changes to the Bills like: to give in writing that the system of minimum support price (MSP)-continuation, given option to farmers to approach courts of law in case their (farmers’) agreements with corporates land in trouble, and has also agreed to exempt farmers the penal provisions for stubble-burning. Along with those the Government also has agreed upon, not to alter subsides on power consumed for agricultural purposes. As a matter of fact, the Government by granting all, has weakened the intentional Liberalisation of agriculture, in effect: the three Bills. Yet the farmers are not relenting. They, at their 7th round of talks with the government on 4th January 2021, continued to be steadfast on their demand of repealing of the 3-Farm laws and ensuring MSP. They forget, that there should be, ‘give and take’ on both sides.
Adamant Farmers: The farmers saying: “Kanoon wapasi nahi, to ghar wapasi nahi (we will not go home until the laws are withdrawn)”, is holding the Govt. up to ransom. Basically, the farmers gathered are all (almost) from Punjab and Haryana states. Not from the entire country. Maybe they have their sympathisers elsewhere too, but not seemingly evident. The moot question is: how can two-states’ farmers could put the Government to test? What right do they have to seek the repeal of three-Bills that are for the development of the entire country’s agricultural-sector? The opposition is egging them on, is a known fact. Of course, the opposition always fishes in the troubled water. When they are in the Government their attitude is different. The Congress and the Left-parties do not have any right to be alongside the farmers. For, in more than 70-years of independence, the Congress ruled majority of the time in cahoots with the Left-intellectual ideologues. Have they ever bothered to do land-reforms by way of land-distribution to the farmers i.e., land to tiller? They maintained the feudal-system for so long. Now, the small tenant-farmers are suffering at the hands of big landlords.
Are striking farmers, farmers really? The striking-farmers are not really big farmers. They are all small peasants and farm-labourers. They are extremely worried about, because they think these laws are a threat to their livelihood. The routine they follow by taking the produce to market-yard-mandis and selling for the fixed MSP by the Government, is disrupted. To them this causes chaos and confusion. The big farmers who sit in their cosy comfortable houses in cities and enjoy the agricultural income without paying tax, are at the back of this agitation. Not at the fore-front. For them, liberalisation of agriculture would be a hazard. This is a kind of privatisation. It makes them accountable to the income-tax department to pay taxes, at a later point on their income. They cannot evade tax as earlier. As a matter of fact, India cannot afford this many not falling under tax-bracket.
The Government is open-minded– Throughout the discussions the government has been open-minded. Thought that care should be taken to assuage the farmers hurt-feelings. However, deep-down farmers view corporates with deep-pockets would initially provide more money than mandis and thus weaken the system of mandis eventually to wipe-out. This could be with or without a ploy, likely to happen. A big farmer should be an entrepreneur. He must judge for himself which crop is durable and enriching. That liberty is given by this liberalisation. Always, growing wheat and Rice is not tenable.
In the rest of the world in many nations viz. Argentina, Brazil & Australia the grain is grown in large quantities using technology. Precision-agriculture i.e., using Information Technology (IT) application for soil and crop surveillance, mapping technologies- satellite data together with drones’ crop-scouting have increased productivity. In India too this kind of technology could be used. However, farms with small-units make adoption of these technologies difficult. This is not in any way to discourage small farmers or to impose technology-driven farming in India. This is only to show that the vast quantities of grain these countries produce, is cheaper. India is not at dearth of grain like in 1960s. Large quantities of rice and wheat produced in India is under “storage and wastage” of Food Corporation of India (FCI) godown.
Migration to urban areas is needed– Farmers with small land-holdings work in their fields unlike the big farmers that give their farms to tenant-farmers to till. In these days, farming is not a sought-after profession. Earlier, in India agriculture delivered more jobs than any other productive sector. To import grain is much cheaper than the cost of production in India, with so many subsides and income-tax exemptions. In other countries agriculture equipment is increasingly performing automated work from sowing, harvesting to packing and supplying. In this scenario instead of depending on Farm-sector, it is better for small farmers’ children to have education. That would provide less physically demanding and more financially rewarding jobs. For which, the farmer needs to move to urban areas to work in factories and other infrastructural sectors. Roll back of farm-laws is not in the interest of country.
The progressive reforms should not be held hostage, as a few farmers are agitating. Any reform would get some hardship to a section of people. During 1991- Economic Reforms there were apprehensions, protests and doomsayers too. Yet, they weren’t stopped. Similarly, these laws should go ahead. The farmers should stop their blackmailing tactic. Their dictum: state is my right, no out-side system can do better, is illogical.