Home Farmers protest a turning point for indias democracy

“To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves”

- Mahatma Gandhi

India’s Farmers have been protesting against the new Agricultural Laws for months. Into their sixth straight month of striking and protesting, farmers in India continue to demand the repeal of three recently passed agricultural bills that they believe prioritize corporate interests over their own. The protests began in August when the three bills were first disclosed and have continued to grow dramatically as the bills were passed in September. The government has repeatedly refused to grant the demands of farmers and agricultural unions. This video is aimed at giving its audiences a fair and an un-biased opinion on these laws.

The farmers' protest is centered around the conflict over three pieces of agricultural legislation passed in September by the Indian Parliament. Let us begin discussing the bill which shall not only affect the farmers but every resident of this country. The bill is called- ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020’.

In 1955, the Indian Legislature passed a law to regulate the production, supply and distribution of, and trade and commerce in, certain commodities, in the interest of the general public. The law basically dealt with the Essential Commodities like fertilizers, food crops, petroleum, etc. The effect of the law was such that no private company could store these essential commodities beyond a particular threshold. The idea was to maintain a parity in demand and supply of such commodities. For instance, if a privately owned business proceeds to store pulses in huge amounts, there will be an acute shortage in its stock in the market. This deficiency in stockpile will at that point lead to an increased demand, which will eventually have an impact over the prices. The prices would shoot up, filling the pockets of the private business owners.

The present Amendment Act, does not negate the law of 1955 in entirety. The amendments to the six-and-half-decade old law provides, that stock holding limit on commodities will only be imposed under exceptional circumstances like national calamities or famine with a surge in prices. Meaning, that any private company that wishes to hoard such commodities, can now do so without any restriction over its quantum.

Further, the legislature has went on to strike off certain essential commodities like- onions, potatoes, cereals, etc. from the list of the essential commodities, implying that the government can regulate its supply or include this items back into the list only under “extra ordinary circumstances” and not otherwise. Foodstuffs like pulses, onions and edible oil are parts of a common man’s daily essential commodities. The government not regulating the supply of such food items, will multifold the chances of their hoarding. The question that arises is, what benefit is the Amendment serving our Farmers; particularly the small and landless farmers? They don't even have the space to store the harvests for themselves, let alone hanging tight for when the prices will climb and thereafter selling their produce in the market. It is very apparent, that the ones benefitting from this amendment are not the farmers, but the already resourceful private companies or investors having huge warehouses and cold storage facilities. And eventually, it is the general public especially the poor and middle section of the society who is going to bear the burden of price hike at the hands of wealthy private investors.

The second bill that has been passed is the ‘The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020’. The said amendment claims to give an extra edge to the farmers by removing the restriction to sell the produce in their respective Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and be able to sell it directly to the highest bidder. It has opened the gates to new opportunities for the farmers by removing all kinds of taxes on the privately traded farm products with the private companies or to APMCs of other states.

Well, it at least seems like a win-win situation for both- the farmers and the private investors. However, such is not the case. Firstly, this shall have an adverse impact on the state government’s revenue whose burden shall directly fall upon the general public at large, including the farmers and the economically weaker sections of the society. Secondly, it is the middle-men who are going to lose their livelihood if the Act is implemented. Thirdly, creation of private mandis will push all agriculture businesses towards private markets. The result will be the end of government markets and intermediary (commission agent) systems as well as APMC systems. After that only big traders and giant companies will operate in the markets and procure farm produce at incidental prices.

The question that then arises is- How at all is the present amendment benefitting the Farmers? A small farmer who already lacks resources to live a decent life, would now have to travel to other states and do a complete market research in order to sell his produce or would have no other option left but to give-in to the demands of the private investors and companies. This amendment would have been beneficial if the farmers were trained and guided beforehand. If the government would have cared enough to implement the proclaimed law in stages beginning with making the farmers aware, educating and training them on the aspects of market research and dealing with private investors, the same would not have led to the present chaotic situation.

The third bill is ‘The Farmer (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020’. This law relates to contract farming wherein there shall be a pre-existing written contract between the farmers and the private company specifying the quantity, price and other required terms and conditions. One major point of uncertainty in this situation is that the private companies are more likely to hold an upper-hand as the government will then steer clear of any form of answerability to the farmers. The concept of Minimum Support Price has been the core of Indian Agriculture. Minimum support price is an agricultural product price set by the government of India at which it purchases directly from the farmers. The Protection of MSP has also been taken away by the Act leaving the farmers at the mercy of the private investors and companies who can go on to form cartels and fix up the prices.

However, owing to the ongoing protests by the farmers coupled with the pressure on the government to take back the Amended law, the government has agreed to keep the minimum support price as it is.

But the history of contract farming has many examples of non-payment by the companies making various excuses like substandard produce. It has happened in the case of sugarcane where payments were held for many years or cases of non-procurement making excuses of poor quality. It has pushed the farmers into a debt trap. In such cases farmers are unable to repay the loans and have no option other than to sell or lose their lands.

Furthermore, by taking away their right of representation in the court, through the means of an establishment affiliated to the SDM, the law has fostered the intense feeling of insecurity in the minds of the farmers.

It has been approximately six months of constant disagreements of the affected party with the government and even after a huge wave of support from the majority of the nation, no whiff of comfort has been provided to the farmers who have now managed to make homes out of their vehicles and tents. Many Bollywood celebrities and some of the most renowned Indian cricketers, under the influence of the presently active government, are objecting any

international interference in favour of the farmers by proclaiming the whole movement as an "internal matter", when on the other hand, the whole law came into existence under the impact of some major global organisations. With the World Bank, the International monetary fund and WTO's advice and

instructions for raising the Indian GDP in order to repay their loans by adopting a more capitalistic approach, this government has went into ignoring the plight of Indian farmers, who themselves provide a great share in the Indian Economy; The so-called affair then no longer remains a domestic one.

When people lose faith in their councils, they resort to other forces to seek some aid and that is what happened in this case. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, allows the citizens of India to hold different opinions and express them peacefully, which is precisely what the farmers have been doing of late and the Supreme Court agreed to this. But the government, being so adamant as it is, finds no damage in making the mockery of the Indian Constitution and the highest body of the court. Moreover, the basic Human Rights of the Indian farmers are being violated, and that alone blurs the boundaries of the World Map and makes this historical movement a fight for humanity's sake.


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