Farmers of Punjab and Haryana are on warpath with central government against three new farm bills passed by the centre. In fact, non BJP governments in Punjab and Rajasthan are openly supporting this movement by Kisans. The question arises is if the central government is firmly of the view that the new legislation is in the long term interest and benefit of farmers, why is this feeling not shared by the above two state governments and why nobody is able to convince farmers that these bills are in their interest? Why are we playing politics and that too with our farming community.
To have a view on this issue, it’s important to understand the issue first, especially from the view point of farmers and their sympathisers! Farmers do not accept the three new legislations — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation); The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance; and Farm Services and The Essential Commodities (Amendment). They believe the laws will open agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers, remove the barriers to inter-state trade, and provide a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce.
Since the state governments will not be able to collect market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.
Farmers believe that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP. Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation. Farmers are demanding the government guarantee MSP in writing, or else the free hand given to private corporate houses will lead to their exploitation.
The arhtiyas (commission agents) and farmers enjoy a friendship and bonding that goes back decades. On an average, at least 50-100 farmers are attached with each arhtiya, who takes care of farmers’ financial loans and ensures timely procurement and adequate prices for their crop. Farmers believe the new laws will end their relationship with these agents and corporates will not be as sympathetic towards them in times of need.
From the above, it seems, at least to my mind that the legislations are progressive that are meant to break age old quaint middle man or arhtiya system, saving gullible farmers from exploitation by them! However, age old systems and protocols cannot be changed overnight and that too by forcing such legislations down the people’s throat. The onus is on the central government to take all stakeholders into confidence, allay their apprehensions, bring in clauses that are desired by farmers to protect their interest and then try to promulgate the order. This has been unique feature of the present government. Because of its inability to take opposition and large sections of society along , all its legislations are being met with great circumspection and even the best of intentions of the government do not seem to be winning public approval.
On the other Punjab and Rajasthan governments should stop politicising the issue and work for suitable amendments in the bills so that farmers can benefit the most and are out of age old malpractice gives by arhtiyas and middlemen.
And farmers and their leaders should definitely not make it an Akali- BJP or Badal-Modi-Amarinder or last of all anti Sikh issue. Farmers’ only religion is hard work to feed millions of populace of this country and we all respect them for farming,to my mind, is the most difficult and underpaid of the professions and our heart should go out to the farmers of this country so that they are better off and there are no farmer suicides!