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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Politicised farmers’ protest is drowning the voices of ordinary farmers across the country

The protest on Delhi’s borders by a section of farmers has taken a dangerous turn with Khalistani and ultra-leftists now holding sway. In all the din, however, voices of ordinary farmers from across the country who are supporting the law since it would do away with middlemen and ensure that they get the best prices for their products, open contract farming options, and improve infrastructure like cold storage warehouses are going unheard.

Those protestors in the garb of farmers who have only gathered out of political compulsion obviously find it hard to hide their actual agenda.

The above video makes it apparent that those protesting against the so-called “black laws” have no idea about the law itself. The learned farmer here is demanding the freedom to burn stubble burning which the apex court had wanted the states to control due to the pollution it causes every year.

For some elite farmers, it is all about government taking panga (challenging someone) with zamindars (landlords). This gives away their agenda totally since it is these landlords who also act as middlemen and keep the actual farmers poor by forcing the latter to sell their products to them (landlords) or their cartels at the rate they fiix.

The diaspora Khalistanis parading as farmers are exposing themselves.

However, there are farmers who actually toil on the ground and are the real stakeholders who must have a say in the entire episode. These voices are being sidelined by the middlemen, ultra-leftists, vested political interests, and Khalistanis who have come together to destabilize the nation in the name of farmer’s protests. We present here the unheard voices of those farmers from across the country who are supporting the latest laws and believe that these laws will be beneficial.

The above farmer explains how the bill gets rid of middlemen and allows farmers to sell their produce directly. He further says that earlier farmers could not sell their produce without the middlemen who fixed the prices and farmers could not demand the price on the basis of their input cost. He also said that at present they are unable to sell outside the mandis (markets) which these farm laws will allow them to do and the farmers would be able to earn more. He was also hopeful that contract farming would open more avenues for farmers.

The farmer in the above video offers a balanced take. He talks about Swaminathan Commission being ignored for long, but admits farmers are being misled about the new laws (just to clarify, the new laws do not talk about MSP at all, and government has clarified that current government procurement as per MSP will continue. Although MSP being skewed towards few states and being economically unsustainable, is another matter). He says that contract farming is a good option as long as farmers aren’t forced into it. As for access to new trading centres apart from APMC mandis, he says that is still just on paper for most farmers.

“If earlier you had one trader, now you can negotiate with 4 traders including from outside, so it will be benefical. Contract farming is also good, and there is no fear of losing land as it is in my name and I will be doing an agreement with the company, ” says the above farmer, penetrating the heart of the reforms and dispelling all fear-mongering with clarity.

The young farmer gives an insightful commentary on the whole debate over MSP. He correctly says that the new laws have nothing to do with MSP – it continues to exist as it did in the past.

“Middlemen do not give more than the MSP (Minimum Support Price) to the farmers, and it actually functions as a Maximum Support Price. We farmers know that we never get more than MSP. But I would not always blame the middlemen for this – sometimes they don’t have storage facilities to stock produce. 22 crops qualify for MSP as far as I know, out of which rice and wheat are prioritised (for procurement), so most farmers grow those two crops. When we have a bumper harvest, the rate falls because there is a glut and farmers have to sell as otherwise the grain will rot (as excess grain can’t be stored). As such times, government reimburses the input cost to farmers,” he adds, giving a far better lesson in farming economics than reading mainstream media op-eds for a month could provide.

The way MSP skews our farming and creates harmful incentives for farmers, and other inter-related issues like depleting water table in a comparatively arid zone like Punjab and air pollution due to stubble burning, has been covered by us earlier.

Incidentally, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 – one of the three bills passed recently – addresses the exact issue the last farmer is talking about. It will allow traders to buy larger quantities during surplus harvests of perishables, without fear of being punished for ‘hoarding’, thus enabling farmers to get better prices instead of just dumping their produce at throwaway prices. The deregulation will also encourage entrepreneurs to invest in cold storage, warehouses, processing and export.

There are many more farmer voices which offer a more nuanced view on the issue, such as these Maharashtra farmers who have seen their fortunes turn for the better once they started contract farming.

Actual farmers understand what is beneficial for them and what isn’t. Many of those protesting are merely running an agenda. It is important that the voices of real farmers do not get drowned in all the din.

(Featured Image Source: Dainik Jagran)


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