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Farmers’ protest: Address their genuine concerns without delay

By Devsagar Singh

Farmers’ protest: Address their genuine concerns without delay

New Delhi, Nov 28:It is unfortunate that the Narendra Modi Government has come into confrontation with the farmers of Punjab and Haryana instead of addressing their genuine concerns over the new farm laws enacted in the last session of Parliament. The farmers’ agitation has now reached Delhi where thousands of them are left to elements in biting cold in the midst of Covid surge in the national capital.

             The Government’s charge that the Opposition is inciting the farmers is, to say the least, highly irresponsible.  The union agriculture minister’s offer of talks on December 3 after two days’ of violent agitations on the Delhi-Haryana border is too little too late. The talks have been held earlier too but without success. The need of the hour is to arrive at a  solution that takes into account farmers’ concerns without jeopardizing their interests.

          The basic fear of the farmers is that the Government is pushing them to corporates for selling their produce by slowly phasing out the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism which existed all these years. This is a genuine fear in a country where 87 percent of farmers are said to own less than two hectares of agricultural land. In the absence of an assured MSP, these farmers would be forced to sell their produce to the corporates at the price they choose to offer. Clearly, the farmers will be left to the mercy of the corporates.

             By seeking to protect the interests of small and marginal farmers, the Opposition parties are only doing their duty and certainly not inciting them. Let there be a statutory guarantee of an MSP below which no corporate can buy farmers’ produce. The Government must protect local mandis to which the farmers can go with their produce and sell at the MSP. At the same time, the farmers must also have a choice to sell their produce to anyone they like at a rate higher than the MSP. The Government’s argument that the farmers would stand to benefit by the new laws which allow them to sell their produce anywhere anytime is specious inasmuch as it failed to protect their basic interests (of assured minimum price).  Corporates will be always driven by profit motives ignoring farmers’ interests in mind.

           Farming operations would become slowly corporatized in which the poor farmers would have little or no say. Mighty corporates will dictate terms. One cannot expect poor farmers to approach courts to settle disputes. Farmers may be driven to desperation at the hands of the corporates.  We have seen how destitute farmers were driven to suicides in past years because of the loan burden from banks and money lenders. Let farmers not be forced to face similar situations again. Once a corporate puts in money on a farmer’s land in the name of modern farming etc, a vicious circle will begin to build.

                The much-hyped agriculture sector reforms, unfortunately, ignore the poor farmer, the first and basic stakeholder.  The so-called agriculture experts who count for policy actions in the Government are mostly armchair academics or bureaucrats having little knowledge of farming on the ground, let alone the problems faced by the poor farmers. The Modi Government will ignore farmers at its own peril.

 

Farmers’ protest/Farmers’ protest/Farmers’ protest

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