Farmers are protesting for a few months in India and most of us have not given an ear to it. To put it in an easier example, this is like your boss telling you that you will receive half the salary going forward and may or may not receive a bonus and this has already been decided and you have nothing to say or change your company because this is going to be done by all the companies going forward.
We know that apart from the winter and the pollution there are also farmers’ protests taking place in Delhi at degrees. There are about three lakh farmers camped at various parts of the border on the highways of the state of Delhi and they say they’re not going to leave until the center rules back its farm laws.
How Many Farmers Are Protesting in India
Now three lakh farmers are protesting on the roads they’re cooking out in the open and sleeping in the backs of their trucks and their tractors. There are no toilets so they’re having to bathe in the neighboring petrol pump public toilets and they’re using the fields. Most of them are in their 60s and their 70s so you really have to wonder what’s going on what could possibly make them commit to a protest that is so physically strenuous.
What’s going on is actually that these farmers are protesting the government’s new farm laws and these farm laws came
a few months ago they’re actually mostly from Punjab but some of them are from Haryana and from up and from Rajasthan they’re
part of a Delhi cello protest so they left from Punjab on the 28th of November and they headed towards Delhi as part of their protest and of course, we know on this on the road the police tried to stop them there were barricades there was tear gas used there were water cannons used in Haryana specifically.
They had to cross Haryana from Punjab to get to Delhi but the farmers didn’t stop they kept going and now they have gotten to Delhi and they say they will not leave until they get to their demands so we have to look at what they’re protesting right because with all of the coverage that we’re seeing right now come out of these farmer protests there are terms like APMC and MSP that a lot of the urban audience doesn’t really understand so here’s a breakdown of why these farmers are protesting.
What Are The Farm Bills?
Back in September, the government passed through parliament three laws they have very complicated names the farmer-produced trade commerce law the farmer’s agreement price assurance, and the essential commodities amendments but I’m going to break it down into simple language this is what these laws effectively do. You can also download it here.
- What they do first of all is allow for farmers to sell directly to the private sector outside of the government-controlled mandis or Sabzi Mandis which are called the APMCs.
- They also allow for the private sector to enter into contracts with farmers and sort of place an order on what they want the farmers to grow so that they can buy it when the farmer is done growing.
- They also remove all of the regulations on hoarding so the private sector is now allowed to stockpile food so for example up till now hoarding was illegal a trader couldn’t hoard say onions because they would hold enough onions and then drive up the price or then open the horde and then drop the price they could manipulate the price through boarding that regulation has also been removed. The government says that these combined regulations will help.
What Are APMCs?
They’re using the word liberate the farmer so as to free up the farmer from the monopoly of the APMCs from the corruption in the APMCs and allow the farmer to enter the open market and be able to get whatever price they wanted.
From the private sector it sounds great but why are the farmers then protesting this and to understand that we have to
actually, step back a little bit and figure out what the system was before these rules were brought in.
Until now farm produce was bought and sold primarily in APMCs. APMCs are state government-regulated markets or mandis
and only licensed traders can actually buy in the APMC. now the APMC physically requires the farmer to bring his products
to the market that was a problem because a lot of times farmers couldn’t afford to bring them.
Once they brought it they couldn’t afford to take it back. There aren’t too many APMCs in the country they’re about a little over 2477 on the last count and that doesn’t cover a lot of the country and so farmers who either couldn’t afford to go to the APMC could then sell it to a trader at whatever price that they could get.
Now on paper, the APMCs offer protection to small farmers because it’s a regulated space there are licensed traders there’s someone to complain to if you have a problem but over a period of time APMCs have become a sort of den of monopoly and corruption and the middlemen or the traders are ruling the roost.
The government argues that the APMC system is flawed and the only way to fix it is to allow the farmers to direct taxes to the private sector and to allow private sector to set up similar Mondays across the country and that still sounds pretty good but why are the farmers then protesting
Well, the farmers are protesting the details in these laws and the devil is really always in the details right. So what they’re saying fundamentally is if the private sector starts to set up mandis that don’t have to pay the cess or the tax they don’t have to pay their dues to the state government over a period of time the private sector mandis because of the competition will wipe out the APMCs.
If the APMCs get wiped out then the farmers will effectively be left only at the mercy of the private sector and the private sector will then begin to drive down prices and the farmers will have no option they’ll have nowhere else to go now they also argue remember the APMC is where the farmers get their MSP. It has now started to make sense why the farmers are protesting.
What is MSP?
MSP is a minimum support price. MSP is offered for crops like rice and wheat and mainly staple crops. When a farmer has a bumper crop and there’s he has a huge harvest and he brings it to the market and there’s a glut of that same process because everybody’s had a bumper crop at that time and there’s a lot of wheat coming to the market the price of wheat will come down and the farmer will not recover what he has invested into that crop – simple economics.
What the MSP does is that the government offers a minimum price at which the government itself will buy and the APMC offers that price. The farmers argue that if the APMCs are weakened by this law over a period of time and the APMC is shut down the MSP will go with them because technically a private sector Mandi is under no obligation to offer the MSP and so there’s no guarantee in the new law of the MSP and that’s what is the farmer number.
Eighty percent of the farmers in our country are small farmers which means they have small tracts of land. They’re not very big farmers and so they feel they will not be able to really have any bargaining power against corporates on the legal front.
Remember these laws do not mandate for a written contract so if there’s a problem later the farmer will have trouble going up against a big culprit. Also if there’s a problem later this law specifies that you cannot go to court what you have to do instead is go to a government official a sub-divisional magistrate or a collector and whatever they decide is final.
That no one can go to court about it also specifies that nobody can file a case about the specifications of this law something done under this law against either the central government or the state government or any of the officers of central state government remember the magistrates and collectors are officers of government.
The farmers are protesting because the problem with this is that it takes away their fundamental right to approach the courts and so what the farmers are arguing effectively is that these laws all together are throwing them to the wolves which are the private sector.
Do remember the private sector has no obligation to look after the welfare of the farmers the private sector’s obligation fundamentally is to its shareholders and to its profits so that’s what it’s going to be looking out for and that’s the farmer’s fundamental position they’ve been criticisms of course from some part of the media and some parts of social media saying it’s not that simple that there is a political angle to all of this now to be fair there’s a political angle to most things in India but if you take a look at this protest specifically.
The first argument was that these farmers are being misled by the opposition and to suggest that they’re being misled five months after these laws have been placed in the public domain is sort of suggesting that they haven’t fully been able to understand these laws in five months time that they’re that naive.
But that theory got debunked when the farmers have made a point by point presentation to the central government on their main concerns with these laws and the government has heard them out and acknowledge those concerns which should sort of make us conclude that if the government is acknowledging these concerns then these farmers are not saying that naive or they haven’t been able to understand the law now they have been members of the opposition parties who have spoken up in support of these protests. The farmers have not been fronted by anybody political so far.
The second accusation was actually a little more outrageous than that it was that this farm protest is actually a Khalistani separatist movement. Many of these farmers came out and made statements in the media saying that they have children in the armed forces and they’re not anti-national.
In fact, two or three weeks ago there was a one-year-old young soldier who was martyred in Kashmir and he was the son of a farmer in Punjab also two seniors leaders of the BJP in Punjab have come out and said that it’s unfair to use the Khalistani narrative on the Punjab farmers. Farmers are protesting for the country’s betterment.
The big question is why are so many of these farmers are protesting are from Punjab is it because there is a Congress government in Punjab? Is that what is going on the real reason? Is that Punjab farmers grow mostly wheat and rice most of the wheat and rice is grown in Punjab and these are MSP crops.
They benefit the most from the APMC system they benefit the most from the MSP system and they stand to lose the most if either the APMC or the MSP system were to be challenged or in some way weakened in the future which is why so many of them are from Punjab and from Haryana which is the other state that grows a lot of wheat and so while the congress has spoken up in support of this protest including the Chief Minister of Punjab.
They’ve also been parties who were allies of the BJP who have supported the protesters as well the Shiromani Akali Dal as you know actually pulled out of the India alliance and the central government and its minister actually resigned to make sense of why the farmers are protesting.
So question that we have to ask now is what happens now the farmers have dug in their heels they have said that until and unless the farm laws are all together withdrawn by the government and an MSP assurance is given to them in writing they are not going to call off the protest.
There’s going to be another round of talks and this is obviously a developing story and we’re going to have to see how long this goes on. The farmers seem fairly adamant in what they’re doing. One of the signs of how adamant they were was when they had gone to Vigyan Bhavan to have this conversation with the government it extended for seven hours.
There was obviously a lunch break they refused to have any lunch that was offered to them by the government they refused to have the child that was offered to them by the government they had lunch brought in from the protest site and that’s what they ate so that’s a sign of the fact that they’re not really seeing eye to eye and the farmers are sort of standing their ground.
Nineteen farmers have died at the Singhu border over the past two months for various reasons during the ongoing agitation, the police said. Harinder Singh, 39, a resident of Haryana’s Panipat, and Darshan Singh, 71, from Punjab died at the Singhu border on 9th Feb 2021.
So far, International Celebs like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg has shown support to the #farmersprotest on Twitter, while Indian Celebs like Sachin Tendulkar, Ajay Devgn, and Akshay Kumar have supported the government’s view.
Farmers constitute an extremely important part of our country. And the efforts being undertaken to resolve their issues are evident. Let’s support an amicable resolution, rather than paying attention to anyone creating differences. 🙏🏻#IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda https://t.co/LgAn6tIwWp— Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar) February 3, 2021
Download the farm bills here to know for yourself why the farmers are protesting and we hope this to be resolved sooner. Do share your thoughts below.