“Thanks, but no thanks”

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Farooq Alay

It is preposterous to believe that after abrogating Article 370 and 35A in Kashmir, Muslim, Christian and Dalit genocide in India, NRC and CAA and controversial triple talaq reforms, now BJP is destroying farmers of India. According to Farms Act 2020, farmers can sell their produce to whoever they want, whenever they want. How can a small farmer store his produce for months on end? He will not have access to storage facilities.

Despite depending on agrarian development and farm heartlands, the situation of farmers both in Pakistan and India is not good. Recently, agitating farmers mainly from Punjab were maltreated by the provincial administration. However, by and large the Pakistani farmers are enjoying no mentionable hurdles towards growing crops, income on the produce and taxes thereof. But the condition of farmers in the neighboring country, India, is highly miserable, which seems the part of BJP’s anti-farmer agenda.

The farmers in India are facing frequent droughts, that too in the debt-driven lands. They think that the fascist government of Modi is taking India towards capitalism, by making the farmers slaves of the capitalists. This is the reason that their protests and agitations have spread all over India after the tabling of two controversial bills, which if passed may prove to be a death warrant for farmers. Indian media calls Maharashtra as a farmers’ suicide belt while Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa have been totally devastated. “Even after 73 years of independence our farmer who is toiling to feed our nation, he himself is hungry, deprived and distressed. Unseasonal rains, droughts, and floods, still ails Indian agriculture. The farmer has reached the brink of despair, and what they are experiencing is something which is beyond an agrarian crisis”.

The fact is the agriculture sector in India contributes nearly 15 percent of its $2.9 trillion economy, but it employs about half of the country’s 1.3 billion people only. On September 27, 2020, the Indian president, Ramnath Kovind gave his assessment on three noxious agriculture acts: Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. Farmers are mainly concerned that this will eventually lead to the end of wholesale markets and assured prices, leaving them with no back-up option. That is, if they are not satisfied with the price offered by a private buyer, they cannot return to the mandi or use it as a bargaining chip during negotiations.

As a result, it is very likely that the produce will be sold at a rate which is unsustainable for the farmer. The Acts further state that farmers can come into an agreement with private companies. The Acts further state that farmers can come into an agreement with private companies. Such deals are financially attractive but because there are so many terms and conditions attached, it is difficult for a farmer to cope with them. They become the slave of the company. The agriculture sector contributes nearly 15 percent of India’s $2.9 trillion economy but employs about half of the country’s 1.3 billion people is being ignore by Modi. Rather BJP hoodlums are calling them Khalistan proxies.

The man called Narendra Modi who had won the elections on a promise of doubling farm income has left farmers at the mercy of big corporations as he is making them the slaves of the capitalists. It is widely believed and the farmers fear that the three deadly farmer acts will only push the farmers from one set of middlemen to another set of middlemen. It is not a solution for agriculture as promised. Therefore, the Farm Act 2020 is a death warrant for small and marginalized farmers, which is aimed at destroying them by handing over agriculture and market to the big corporates.

The new a controversial Farm Acts are unlikely to be a panacea for Indian farmers’ plights. The ruling BJP’s goal, in essence, is therefore to allow greater play of market forces in agriculture. Modi’s government has designed Farm Acts 2020 not for the farmers but for the investors. It has obviously not done enough to ensure that farmers’ interests are not sacrificed. Farmers actually need protection of their interests in the form of regulations. Rather BJP goons are calling them protesters for Khalistan.

The farmers’ agitation over the new Farm Acts is yet another conflict and protest against unilateral law of the Modi’s government. This time the farmers from Punjab and Haryana states are joining the protests and are heading towards Delhi. If this proves to be a success, Modi government will obviously be in deep waters. These protests have called the attention of world leaders, who are strongly criticizing India, though the Indian foreign ministry took notice of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments calling it “unwarranted, especially when pertaining to internal affairs of a democratic country”.

The Modi government dismisses the agitating farmers’ fears saying these are misplaced. His government blames the opposition parties for spreading false rumours regarding the fate of farmers under the new laws. “The new agriculture laws have been brought in for benefit of the farmers. We will see and experience benefits of these new laws in the coming days”, said Modi as his home affairs minister offered to allow the farmers’ entry into the capital city as long as they restrict their agitation to a designated spot. The farmers’ response was: “thanks, but no thanks”.

According to a New York Times report, but the scene at Delhi’s borders, where tens of thousands of farmers and their supporters have been demonstrating at several road junctions, resembled the citizenship protests in spirit: the combative anti-Modi speeches, the growing crowds and the countless volunteers passing out food to keep things going. BBC observes that the farmers’ cause, however, continues to gain support, though the authorities invited them for talks – one round of talks with government ministers on Tuesday failed and a second round was scheduled for Thursday. The farmers have now set up massive camps at several locations and they say they will stay as long as it takes for the authorities to agree to repeal the “black laws”.

(The writer is freelance columnist)