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Farmer Protests: Just an Opposition Agenda or Reality?

Last Updated by Ravinder 03-Oct-2020

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Farmers are the backbone of the Indian economy and also the biggest agenda to win any election in India. Whenever the election arrives, every politician suddenly becomes farmers or calls themselves originated from farmer families and starts caring about farmers. These politicians make huge promises to gain the trust of farmers to get their votes obviously. Every politician knows that a farmer is a simple man who will support you if you promise to support them. Well, the farmers stand to their words but these politicians forget about farmers the very next day they win the elections.

Although we are not here today to discuss politicians or elections, we are here to talk about farmers but it is impossible to get politics out of any topic in India. Farmers put so much of hard work in a single crop season which a normal person won’t be able to do in their entire lifetime. They are the reason every Indian gets to feed their families while families of many of these farmers don’t have enough to fill theirs. Think of the risk every farmer bears for a single successful crop season, the risk of climate changes, risk of unwanted rain during harvest, risk of insects or animals ruining the crops and so on.  A farmer put their entire body at risk for their crops, they work day and night tirelessly sometimes even without food or sleep. 

Farmers have proved their worth even during these difficult times of pandemic, no one in India was short on food because of them but every year a large number of farmers commit suicide due to various reasons. Although it is safe to say that all these reasons have one thing in common, all are related to their crops. Now, these farmers are on roads protesting, leaving their fields to the hands of God. It must be something big to drag them out of their fields because a person who leaves their family for their field will not leave it for something small. So, what is it and why is it so important to them?

Why are farmers protesting?

The government of India has passed some bills which according to farmers are not in their favor while the government claims that it will fulfill the government’s promise of doubling farmer’s income by the year 2022. The farmers are protesting and opposing these 3 bills that tend to take APMC away from the farmers. These APMCs play a huge role in the lives of any farmer but many problems lie with it so the government decided to shut down these APMCs. According to the government, this step of taking away APMCs will allow farmers to sell their crops directly to the companies which in return will increase the income of the farmers. 

The concept that the Indian government imposed is simple, they are taking away the middle man who was making money from both sides. For example, we all have heard the tale of a monkey and 2 cats, in that story monkey was the middle man who reap rewards from both the cats who were fighting over a piece of bread. The monkey decided to help the cats and tried to divide the piece of bread equally between the two cats but every time he divides, the pieces do not come equal and the monkey eats the larger bread to make it equal but in the end, he eats all the bread. According to the government, these APMCs are also doing things of sorts that led the government to shut it down.   

Now, the government is claiming that opposition parties are brainwashing the farmers. That is the reason farmers are thinking negatively and opposing these bills. While if we look from the perspective of farmers, these bills will allow the companies to govern terms as they want. The farmers fear that if there is no MSP, then companies will take advantage of farmers and dictate the prices of crops. It is reasonable for farmers to think like that because these firms have a large number of corporate law advisors who only think of making profits at any cost. So, the protests by farmers are justified as their fears are genuine and it is also true that even if these firms don’t pay to farmers then farmers can’t fight them in courts as they don’t have the money, time or resources. The farmers were protesting for their rights and they were doing it peacefully but it took an ugly turn in Haryana which drove more attention to the situation of farmers. 

Farmer protests in Haryana, U.P and Punjab

The farmers of the entire country were protesting against these bills. The major population of Haryana, Punjab and U.P depend on agriculture as their primary source of income. So, these were the states where protests first began, a large number of farmers started protesting on roads and national highways. It became a problem for the government but it was peaceful from the side of farmers. Farmers were protesting in many parts of Haryana too but the Haryana government could not handle it and they ordered police to handle it.

Lathi-charge on farmers in Kurukshetra

Protests were going peacefully, although farmers have blocked many state highways and shouting slogans against BJP-led government, they were letting emergency vehicles to pass. Police tried to reason with farmers but they were not willing to stop as it was a matter of life and death for the farmers. So, the government decided to use other ways to stop farmers and ordered police to take offensive actions against farmers to end the protests. The farmers who were protesting in the Kurukshetra district of Haryana were lathi-charged by police. 

A lathi-charge is never an answer, beating innocent farmers who were protesting for their rights was not right and opposition parties came to support farmers. When pressure started building on the Haryana government, Anil Vij, cabinet minister of Haryana decided to come up and he said nothing of this sort happened in Haryana. According to him, farmers were not beaten by anybody and it is false news, havoc created by opposition leaders. But what he forgot is that this is the internet era and everything that happens is uploaded to the internet. The whole farmer community became fierce with these statements and government actions that led to a protest outbreak. Now, more farmers are protesting against the bills and the government. 

These actions from the government were condemnable but no minister from the BJP party raised voice against them. Although, Dushyant Chautala, the deputy C.M of Haryana stated that he stands with farmers but he has also not done anything to support these statements so far. The farmers were only protesting for APMCs and MSP which is not wrong but they were lathi-charged on government orders and the reason for the lathi-charge was to disperse the crowd due to the threat of COVID-19 pandemic unofficially. 

What are APMCs ?

APMC stands for agriculture produce market committee. It is basically a marketing board that operates under the guidance of state governments of India. To understand more about these committees, we need to open a few chapters of history. Before independence, British authorities were collecting huge taxes on crops from farmers due to which they were very poor and had little left to even fill their own stomachs. After independence, everybody believed that the situation would get better but it didn’t. 

In fact, it got worse, the farmers still had no money to operate on their fields and so, they used to take loans from small businessmen but these loans become knot to their neck. They were never able to pay up these loans, even after selling the last grain of their crops, these businessmen were not satisfied due to which a lot of farmers committed suicide. The most heinous thing about these loans was that generations had to pay for a loan which was never-ending.

The Government had to put a stop to this and they did, the Indian government came up with a policy to set up APMCs in every state. The main purpose of these committees was to stop the exploitation of farmers by these businessmen. These committees became the medium of trade between the two. These committees ensured that farmers could easily reach them with their crops and then they bid to buy the crops. It worked in the best way for the farmers; they were finally getting what they wanted. They were safeguarded from these evil businessmen but as everything involves politics in India, these APMCs also started politics of their own. They started sabotaging the biddings and farmers again started losing against these. 

This led the government to work on MSP but as not many farmers are educated or not well informed, only 6% of the total farmers of India were able to take advantage of MSP. Let’s discuss what this MSP is and why farmers are demanding it now?

What is MSP?

MSP stands for minimum support price. It is the minimum price that should be given to the farmers for their crops. It is basically set by the government at a price that provides enough profit to the farmer for their harvest. Sometimes the open market and APMCs don’t provide enough prices for the harvest that can benefit the farmer, so this MSP helps them to earn enough profit. It actually safeguards farmers from price exploitation by open market dealers. Every season the crops are different from the last season so the MSP should also change according to that. According to farmers, it should at least be 1.5 times the total cost that farmers put in their crop from sowing to reaping, transportation and every add-on.  

Farmer protests against ordinance

Now, we have understood every term related to these ordinances and you must be wondering if these APMCs are so bad then why farmers are protesting against these ordinances. Actually, the reason is quite simple farmers have reason to believe that after a while these corporate companies will start taking advantage of innocent farmers. The main reason for the protest is to make the government pass the ordinance of MSP along with these so that if any corporate buys farmer’s harvest below MSP, it will be a crime. However, the Indian government doesn’t want the MSP for farmers. 

There might be many reasons for it but the one stated by farmers and opposition leaders is to fill the pockets of government loved corporations. There might be many flaws with APMCs but it provides a safe haven to farmers as compared to dealing with the corporate sector. So, if these bills were so against farmers then how come opposition parties let it pass through assembly? Well to find the answer to that, you need to read our next blog “the end of democracy”. 

Conclusion: The fight for the rights of farmers is real and totally right. If these APMCs are removed then the government cannot guarantee the safety of farmers from exploitation. These corporate will find any way to make a profit whether it helps farmers or not. Even if the government wants to remove APMCs, then they should introduce the concept of MSP to safeguard farmers from these companies. Farmers are the backbone of the Indian economy; it is the only sector that has positive growth during these difficult pandemic times that is the proof in itself.  They should not be treated like this and no justification can reason with what happened in Kurukshetra and why it happened, if they are risking their lives during this pandemic then it clearly states that it means a lot to them.

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