Sudhanshu Shekhar

Dec 2, 2020

3 min read

INDIAN FARMERs! and NEW FARM BILL?

Being a Bihari who has grown up surrounded by farmland, agriculture activities as my village is only 30km away from the city and I usually visit my village during the harvest of crops be it any season, I was incensed to see farmers being pained by the agricultural reforms. I understand the toil and hard work they had put in to earn their livelihoods. They are true salt of the earth people who work in adverse environments, using medieval tools to produce grains for mankind.

I got thinking that If the reforms are hurting the farmers then there should be wider protests across the country including Patidars from Gujrat, Kurmis and Kushwahas from UP/ Bihar, Agharias from Madhya Pradesh, Khandayats from Orissa, Gowdas and Reddys from Deccan and so on. How come is it so Punjab centric?

Here are the things I learnt about farming and Farmer Politics of India while I talked to my elders who are in farming and have knowledge in agriculture economics and also by doing some reasearch :

  1. People from scheduled castes are more than 30% of the Punjab’s population but they hardly own 1–2% of the agricultural land. They are the ones who do the farming work as agricultural laborer. They do not keep revenue generated from selling farm produce; they are paid wages while the income is kept with landowner.
  2. Large majority of the farmers are small & medium farmers. They are net buyers of food grains. Higher Minimum Support Price feeds into inflation which benefits the larger landowning farmers and hurts majority of the agrarian population.
  3. The farm produce is priced cheap and the food prices we see in the market are much higher. The intermediaries make a lot of margin. The supply chain processes, and infrastructure is inadequate and highly regulated. This is the reason behind surplus production, food unavailability and high food prices can all exist simultaneously.

This explained the localized nature of the protest. I was of the mind that even if it is a few large farmers who are driving the protests. They are still Kisan and their grievances still matter. I dug deeper into what is particularly hurting them.

  1. They want the government to guarantee that they will still get the Minimum Support Price for their produce. This is a legitimate demand. If one is producing something, putting in investments then, they would want to have a promise from the buyer that it will buy the produce. The reform allows private entities to be able to buy directly from farmers which made them fear that government will stop buying. However, the government assured them that it will not.
  2. I was curious why government cannot put MSP promise in the bill. With some reading, I found MSP is not included in the legislation because it is an administrative mechanism, not a legislative provision. We can not make it a law that government will be forever obliged to ensure desired prices & profits for farmers.
  3. There are complaints that Mandis are being abolished. That is some opposition propaganda. Neither are APMCs abolished nor is MSP discontinued. In fact, Mortgage/sale of farmer’s land under contract is forbidden in the bill even if farmer defaults.

Most of the city dwellers slandering Farm laws don’t even understand agriculture and the implications and positive results that can come from the liberalization of Agriculture.People who opposing Agriculture Reforms on social media are like those who painted a doomsday scenario when McDonalds, KFC etc. were allowed. That time argument was that they will wipe out Dhaba wallahs etc and monopolize food chain. Did it happen? Baba ka Dhaba, Kake Di Rasoi & Welcome restaurants are still doing brisk business!

People have a fear of change that was seen when people broke computers protesting against use of computers in LIC and Public Banks. Mobile phones were the instruments of the elites but today more students from all over the cities attend classes on Phones. This change would also become a normal thing in the future.