The burning issue : Farmers protest

Nivedita K
Farmers in India are  in the news. One way or the other, troubles and tragedies always seem to find their way to them. Their lives are so much harder than we think we know. Farmers constitute about 100 million of our population, very small, small & large farmers combined together. Out of this, 80% of the farmers are marginal or small farmers (owning only 1-2 ha of land). The land of farmers, for the very reason India was once famous for, has turned into a nightmare for the farmers and their families overnight. A lot of factors are contributing to the terrible condition of our farmers today. First of all it is the competition between productivity and price. It is a fact that a good weather, a good yield and a good price never come all together, either they come alone or never come at all. For this reason, it’s obvious that marginal farmers hardly gain profits or loss but they receive exactly the same small amount of income. And the large farmers on the other hand are able to buy farming equipments that can help them generate good productivity at low costs. Small farmers, which constitute more than half of India’s farming population, are always at the risk of adverse weather conditions- drought, flood, lack of adequate use of inputs, lack of irrigation, crop failures, etc. Other major risks include market risk such as absence of markets, poor pricing, high transaction cost, small market surplus. These all contributes to low and ever changing farm incomes for our farmers. Say for instance, even if a farmer is able to produce good amount of yield, if there is no market to sell it, the story is completely lost and at the end of the day, no one can compensate for the farmer’s losses, not even himself. The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.
The ongoing Farmers protests started from 9th of August 2020. The cause was the passing of the three reform Bills by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in September 2020. The first Act is–Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act which tends to expand the scope of trade areas of farmers from select areas to any place of production, collection. The second Act is Farmers’ Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act which allows contract farming through an agreement between a farmer & a buyer before the production of farm produce. The third Act is-Essential Commodities Act which allows the Centre to regulate certain food items in the course of situations like war or famine. The Indian Government claims these Bills will ensure higher profit for the farmers as they will be able to sell their products to whomever & wherever they want. But the farmers believe it would delineate the current Minimum Support Price (MSP) procurement system and that the large farmers will leave the small farmers at mercy and in between these scenarios, private companies would get their hand on products. And the farmers firmly believe that it would leave them at the hand of greedy private investors and corporations. So all of our farmers are demanding that our PM Modi should repeal the recent Farm Laws and to legally ensure MSP. In this ongoing protest, farmers have demonstrated their agitation by protesting, gheraoing, road blocking, burning of rice stubbles and even suicides. Many have come forward showing support to the farmers protest. On 17th of September, the Food Processing Industries Union Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from her post in protest against the Bills. On 1st of December, independent MLA Somveer Sangwan withdrew support from the BJP Government in the Haryana Assembly. On 17th of December, the Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare wrote an open letter to farmers over the new laws. The reactions and the consequences of the laws were very much ugly. On 4th of December, the farmers protesting on the outskirts of Delhi called a Nationwide strike and agitated to block all the roads to the capital. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) suspended  internet services in Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri from 11 pm on Jan 30 to 11 pm on Feb 2 due to the current the protest in which about 60 farmers have lost their lives and several police officers were injured. On 30th of November, between 200,000 and 300,000 farmers were reported to be converging at various border points on the way to Delhi. Most of them were from Punjab and Haryana and they marched towards Delhi with the slogan “ Dilli Chalo”. On 26th of November, a Nationwide general strike was called and it was estimated that 250 million people gathered in support of the farmer unions. On Republic Day, tens of thousands of the farmers protesting the agricultural reforms held a parade with a large convoy of tractors and drove into Delhi. They drove in long lines of tractors, riding horses and marching on foot. The rally progressed but sooner it deviated and led to a clash with the police. A farmer named Navreet Singh reportedly died on the spot while driving the tractor.
Overall the situation is just getting worse and worse plus the social media clashes. It is of great irony that high ranking officials, sitting inside air-conditioned rooms are deciding what our farmers need while our own farmers, working on the field under the harsh sun to feed us are the ones unhappy with the decisions made by our Government. What a great shame is this for our collective India. Not only National, but international attention have come regarding this issue and it took forever for our own National celebs and influencers to address on this issue until international attention was received. Many have tweeted- some against the protests, some supportive of the farmers and some, the intentions are unknown. Many questions still rises-“Who are they standing with unity-for or against the farmers ?”, “Who are they supporting?”, “What took them so long to address the issue?”. It’s a matter of time and wonder about who will be giving these answers to our curious minds. Plus the spread of false propaganda on television news against farmers seems to be not stopping. Our farmers deserve to live a peaceful life out of troubles, clashes and have one ever imagined what India would look like without our very own Farmers ? It’s never too late until more innocent lives are lost due to clashes and it’s time to settle the necessary things with our farmers, for their lives are precious for this country and for the whole world.