With the intend of Agriculture Reforms, the Central Government brought 3 Farm bills. The main purpose of this bill was to,
- Liberate farmers, to sell their crop anywhere
- Increase the income of farmers through contract farming
- Eliminate or reduce the role of Aadats, and direct sale to increase farmers income
- Create an option to the APMC, by permitting the farmers to sell crops outside mandis, and to private firms as well
But as the bills were introduced a lot of opposition came against the government. Today the protest completes 2 weeks and the farmers from Punjab, Haryana, western UP are protesting at the borders of Delhi, blocking the main highways to the National Capital.
It is important to note that the farmers involved in the protest are mainly from states of Punjab, Haryana, and Western UP. These are the main states where the Mandi system or the APMCs are well established. Whereas states like Kerela and Bihar don’t have APMC, and so the intensity is also low there. Also, few farmer leaders are involved in the protest from all over the country.
Besides the Farmers, there are various political parties like, Congress, NCP, Akalis, DMK, SP, RJD, TMC who are also supporting the agitation. It is interesting to know that the Congress party in its 2019 Manifesto has already promised to amend the APMC act. But after seeing the agitation they seem like taking a U-turn. Also, the NCP Supremo in 2010 has sent letters to the State Governments, regarding the amendments in the APMC Act.
Besides all these protests the real issues and concerns of the farmers are getting cornered. The real question is what farmers want?
In a conversation with a young farmer, I have tried to understand some of their genuine concerns.
- First is the MSP. According to him, it is ok if farmers don’t get any monetary benefits, subsidies, or any other relief. His core demand is the right amount of price for his crops. And it’s his main demand from the government to ensure the MSP in the law.
- In Contract Farming, the main demand is the right against exploitation by Corporate firm. Suppose the deal as per the contracting farming is 20/- kg. And the market price of the crop at that time is just 10/- kg. Here the firm is at loss. So here if the firm won’t give him the promised amount then the farmers are in turmoil and exploited by the firms. So here the farmers want assurance of justice and right against exploitation.
- Now consider the opposite scenario, if the market rate of the crop becomes 40/-kg. Here the firms are in profit but the farmers are in loss. Now here the farmer’s loss needs to be compensated against the market price. Otherwise, how will the farmer earn enough?
- As per the law, there is no provision for confiscation of land from the farmers. Farmers have a fear that if they have a contract with Big Corporates, and if they fail, they must have the security of land.
- Also, there is a demand to add the provisions of seeking justice from the civil court in case of exploitation.
Now after the 6 rounds of meetings between the Farmers delegation and the Government, it seems like both the side are firm on their stands. The Government is ready to amend the law and do possible changes, but the protesting farmers are firm on the demand for repealing the law.
It’s finally up to the protestors in what direction they need to take the agitation. But my only concern is if the movement is purely non-political then there must be serious discussions on the real concerns and issues of the farmers. The politicization of the protest will not only damage the sanctity of the protest but will also cover its real motive.
Reforms never have a cakewalk.
They come from the routes of thorns, nails, and sacrifices.