The protest by farmers of half a dozen States in Delhi had entered seventh day on Tuesday with the Union government inviting them for discussion on December 3. The farmers have been demanding scrapping of the three farm laws that the NDA government had brought with a lot of pro-farmer rhetoric. The government should heed to the farmers, suspend the three so called anti-farmer laws and then hold discussion with the farmer leaders. The government and the farmers should hold talks with open mind. The government should try to convince the farmers by adopting a give and take attitude. It has to be flexible without standing on false prestige.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had accused the Opposition parties of misleading the farmers. By saying so, the PM is underestimating the wisdom of farmers and overestimating the strength of the Opposition parties. Saying that the Congress is behind the trouble is giving more credit for the discredited party than what was its due. The Congress party has no control over the farmers’ movement.
Was Capt. Amerinder Singh a catalyst?
Why the farmers from Punjab and Haryana are more active? Not because of the support given by Punjab chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh. It is because the farmers of the undivided Punjab were active even before independence. They are stouthearted people with a lot of experience in organizing protest marches. They came in their tractors with ration enough for a couple of months. They faced water cannons, barbed wires, barricades, teargas shells, borders security forces and police lathis. This prompted Palagummi Sainath, the agriculture specialist, on Barkha Dutt show to ask, “Is it Haryana or Line of Control (border with Pakistan)?”
The temporary solution suggested by Sainath was that the government should say it will suspend all the three farm laws for now because the farmers feel they are bad laws and then discuss with the farmers. That gives hope to the farmers who can come for discussions with the government with an open mind. However, the farmer leaders are meeting a team of union ministers on Tuesday. It is a good news.
Is it all about MSP?
It may be assumed that the whole problem is about Minimum Support Price (MSP) and if the government gives assurance that MSP would be made part of the law, the problem would be over. The present problem may end but the crisis in farm sector will continue. Even if the three laws were to be scrapped as demanded by the protesting farmers, the crisis in farm sector will continue. The real crisis faced by the farmers lies in the unequal structure in the society that denies remunerative prices to their produce. There are persons who ask why should the farmers be subsidized by tax payers. They may a be direct tax payers such as income tax, but the farmers pay a lot of indirect taxes. They pay tax even on fertilizers and chemicals they purchase besides the regular essential commodities for living.
It is not confined to Punjab, Haryana
There is another argument that the protest is confined to Punjab, Haryana, Rajashtan, UP, Uttarakhand and Kerala. But there were protest in other States too. There were huge rallies in Maharashtra on 27th and 28th of November. There was an all India strike on the other day in solidarity with the protesting farmers.
There is no point in assuring that MSP will be announced and paid unless there is a statutory guarantee on procurement. Present prime minister when he was Gujarat chief minister in 2011 had told the then prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, that the brokers should not be allowed to buy rice of wheat for prices less than the MSP. Being prime minister, he is not talking about it and it was not made part of the three laws that have been passed.
Swaminathan Commission recommendations
Among the Congress and the BJP, which is better as far as farm sector is concerned? The Congress did not do what it ought to have done. It did things that were harmful to the farmers. The BJP has been taking those bad policies forward with redoubled vigor. For instance, the M.S. Swaminathan Commission had submitted five reports in six volumes. The reports have been gathering dust for 15 years. Even the UPA government during whose tenure the report was submitted did not care to organize a debate on the report in parliament for a single day. So much for the love of farmers the Congress leaders and the BJP leaders talk about.