By: Vijay Kumar Verma, Group Editor-ICN World
SHIMLA: Thousands of farmers from various north Indian states are out to seize the national capital Delhi in order to pressurize the central government withdraw the three agricultural bills enacted earlier this year. Behind the government’s intentions to help the farmers come out of the shackles of commission agents turned money lenders by giving them freedom to sell their produce at better rates anywhere in the country, the misguided lot sees hidden agenda of the government to benefit large business houses take control over the agricultural sector. The political agenda of the opposition parties who have lost ground to come back to power is plenty clear in supporting the agitating farmers. These very parties had been backing the sit-ins against CAA in Delhi and other places not long ago. The political interests appear to be much more higher than national interests. The agricultural unions have once again sprung up while labour unions are also lending a helping hand to them.
Farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana and partly from neighboring Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, are staging dharnas at all the eight entry points to Delhi in order to cut off the national capital from the country. By cutting off the supply lines of essentials and access routes to Delhi they incline to involve Denizens too in the battle.
It is found that majority of the so called farmers are from well off families and can afford to stay away from their agricultural fields for long and survive on their incomes. The marginal farmers having small land holdings are not able to afford their stay without work. Community kitchens serving quality food and other nutritious stuff can be seen around the Sindhu border linking Haryana and Punjab to Delhi. As a solidarity move, the Aam Admi Party ruling Delhi has also organized movement of paid protesters from nearby places. The ulterior motive is of course to destabilize the union government. Akali Sal, the old aly of BJP has already severed relations with a motive to fight coming state elections against the Congress of it’s own.
The pressure generated through nations like Canada and England is amply clear since the two countries have large number of Punjabis who form a chunk of their vote banks.
A small farmer in the rally was heard justifying the move in plain and simple terms. He told that the farmers are dependent of the “artiyas” middle men not only to sell their produce but also for lending money for activities of tilling the fields, buying fertilizers and seeds, chaffing and transporting it to the mandis but also for meeting the other financial needs like wedding in the house, children’s education, buying vehicles etc. He divulged that even at 2 percent interest they find the loan easy in comparison to the formalities of banks. For such needs, he told, no government banks lend them money. The attraction of Middlemen is virtually a means of easy loan. Such small farmers fail to realize that these very Middlemen exploit them selling their produce at less than MSP on various pleas like poor quality of food grains etc. Added to that are the woes of marginalised farmers who are forced to pay for mandi tax, weighing fee, cleaning fee, storage fee etc cutting down the value of their produce by upto 25 percent. It may be surprising to note that the middlemen commissions and mandi fees are payable even when the government agencies procure foodgrain from the mandis. While the government agencies can very well procure the grains directly from the farmers. Largest share of foodgrain procurement by the government agencies is done from Punjab thus enriching its mandis which are controlled by the state government and the middlemen who account for funding the elections and also contesting the elections. The agricultural bills are a direct dent on the income of these middlemen and the mandis.
By enacting the laws, the government intended to free the farmers from the clutches of such scrupulous middlemen and money lenders and the bindings of selling their produce only in the mandis in their area which they were bound earlier.
The agricultural reforms which the union government aimed at ensuring doubling the income of farmers would be again relegated to the back burners if once these bills are forced to be withdrawn. The doubt in the intentions of union government was bound to arise because the hurried move to enact the bills lacked taking the state governments as well as the stakeholders in confidence before introducing the bills. No much debate on the bills was favored in the Parliament to justify the government’s intentions. And the recent moves to privatise the trains and handing over operations of airports to big business houses further strengthened the doubts.
While the farm unions may be divided in their agenda of negotiation with the union government from enforcing MSP in the bills to scraping the bills altogether, it may be in the interest of the government to withdraw the bills at this juncture in order to end the ongoing agitations which have also come handy to the opposition parties to gather once again against the ruling party. They have simply given an easy agenda to the opposition parties to unite and weaken their intentions.