It was the second half of the devastating year 2020. The Chinese virus had spread its tentacles in the entire world. The world was crippled and in despair. The economy had taken a bad hit. India too was fighting against the virus like any other country. Amidst all this chaos, the Monsson session of Parliament began, and in a historic move in the history of Indian agriculture, the “Farm bills” were passed in this session which would empower millions of farmers in India. In the month of September last year, President Ram Nath Kovid gave his assent to the three “Agriculture Bills” that were earlier passed by the Parliament.
What are the three Farm bills?
The three farm acts are as follows.
- Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
- Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020
- Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020
The first act creates a national framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer before the production or rearing of any farm produce.
The second act permits intra and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) markets.
The third act is an act of Indian Parliament which was enacted in 1955 to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which if obstructed owing to hoarding or black-marketing would affect the normal life of the people.
Why are the farmers protesting?
After the farm bills were passed, a lot of intense agitation was shown by the Indian farmers especially from the regions of Punjab and Haryana and took the protests to the streets. A lot of drama followed after November 5th 2020.
Rakesh Tikait, Bhartiya Kisan Union leader, stated, “They (Central Government) want amendment in them (Farm Laws 2020) but we want these laws to be repealed. We don’t want changes. We will end our protest only when these laws are withdrawn. Like the government brought the three bills, they should also bring a bill on the MSP.”
The proposal was mainly rejected by the farmers citing the reason that they believe that the inclusion of private mandis along with the APMC will drive the agriculture business towards private mandis which will eventually end the government markets, intermediary system, and APMCs. Hence, big corporate companies will take over the market and exploit the farmers. The farmers believed that a comprehensive act on the MSP pan India is necessary. They believe that the government wants to destroy the APMCs by implementing these laws.
The farmers believe that the Central government does not want to take any responsibility for the farmers issue and they want the states to regulate the traders as any PAN card holder can procure grains from the markets at wishful price and hoard the farm produce as there is no provision to regulate the traders. The farmers are also afraid as they have a history of non-payment by companies in the case of contract farming. Many cases of non-procurement have been witnessed citing ‘poor quality’, driving the farmers into a debt trap. Thus, farmers do not have money to repay the loans and have no option to sell/lose their lands.
Timeline of the protest
On November 5th 2020, more than 200 farm unions organized a nationwide road blockade protesting against the new laws introduced by the govt. that relaxed the restrictions governing the sale and purchase of the farm produce, enabling contract farming.
Farmers from Punjab and Haryana decided to move their protest to Delhi and hence began the “Delhi Chalo” movement”. In late November, Home Minister Amit Shah offered to held talks with those protesting as soon as the farmers vacated the protest site near Delhi borders and move to the designated protest site near Burari. But rejecting his offer, the agitation continued at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.
On 1st December, the Central government held its first round of talks with the leaders of the farm union. A marathon eight hours meeting was also held between the govt and union leaders which ended up inconclusive. Later, on 8th December, the farmers called for a nationwide shutdown and demanded the complete repeal of the new laws. Bhartiya Kisan Union also moved to the Supreme Court against the farm laws. The SC suggested that the centre should hold back these laws and it constituted an impartial committee to end the disagreement.
A fresh round of talks was undertaken by the central government with the farmers union which again ended without a solution as the farmers union leaders kept insisting on repealing all three laws completely. Later, the central government proposed to suspend the laws for one and a half years and set up a joint committee to discuss the legislation. The farmers however, rejected the proposal and continued appealing for revoking the laws.
On the 24th of January, the Delhi police allowed the so-called farmers to hold a tractor rally in Delhi, but with a fixed route through the city. Then came the day of 26th January, when the chaos unfolded when farmers diverted from their route and reached the Red Fort by breaching the security and hoisted the Nishan Sahib flag over there.
This was perhaps, the biggest insult to the democracy of India that too on the Republic Day. Anand Ranganathan tweeted that the hoisting of an illegal flag is not as simple act as it sounds. It signifies the taking over of a place. It is psychologically overwhelming. The symbolism is crushing.
The hoisting of an illegal flag is not as simple an act as it sounds. It signifies the taking over of a place. It is psychologically overwhelming. The symbolism is crushing.
Never thought I'd live to see this day. Never.
Narendra Damodardas Modi, are you as angry as we are? pic.twitter.com/9ltBdCkvLR
— Anand Ranganathan (@ARanganathan72) January 26, 2021
The Sanyunkta Kisan Morcha disassociated themselves from the violence and claimed that certain “anti-social elements” had taken over their protest. They even stated that the protests will continue till the government takes back these laws. More than 44 FIRs were lodged and 127 persons have been arrested in connection with the violence that happened on Republic Day.
In February 2021, many things were unfolded as the pop icon Rihanna, Greta Thunberg a climate activist, and Meena Harris, niece of Kamala Harris spoke about the farmers’ protest on Twitter. The government slammed these celebrities and activists calling their comments inaccurate and irresponsible. The teenager so-called climate activist shared a toolkit on Twitter “by mistake” and all hell broke loose after that. FIR was registered on charges of ‘sedition, ‘criminal conspiracy’, and ‘promoting hatred’ against the makers of the toolkit whose contents were not only anti-government, but also anti-India. Disha Ravi, another young so-called “climate activist” was arrested for allegedly editing the toolkit shared by Thunberg but was later granted bail. A Punjabi actor Deep Siddhu was also named in the Republic Day violence. On March 6th, 2021, farmers completed their 100 days of protest at the Delhi Border.
Government’s reaction to the protest
The farmers are continuing to protest to date. The government tried to hold talks with the farmers’ union leaders but all efforts went in vain as these leaders are hell-bent on making the government take back these laws. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi addressed the nation on the radio via Mann Ki Baat. He stated that all the dues of the farmers must be cleared within three days of procurement, failing which, the farmer can lodge a complaint. Prime Minister Modi stated, “The new agricultural laws have been brought in for benefit of the farmers. We will see and experience the benefits of these new laws in the coming days.” He also warned the farmers that they have been deceived on these reformations by the same people who have misled them for decades.
He also emphasizes the fact that the old system was not replaced rather new options were added under the Farm Laws 2020 for the farmers.
Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Narendra Singh Tomar in a Press Conference stated, “The Government is ready to consider with an open mind any provision in the new laws where farmers have any issues and we want to clarify all their apprehensions.”
Consequences of the protest
A report published in Swarajyamag stated that a popular perception was that the second wave of Covid-19 began in Maharashtra around mid-February, but in reality data analysis shows that the second wave began in Punjab in early January 2021, in step with the so-called farmers’ agitation which had its epicentre there, and on the back of a new, even-more-lethal, UK-variant of the Wuhan virus.
As the national capital faced an Oxygen crisis and faced its acute shortage, it was revealed that the supply of oxygen tanks was disrupted by the ongoing farmers protest in and around Delhi, which was ironically supported by the AAP government.
A report from Moneycontrol stated that “liquid medical oxygen to the Paschim Vihar hospital from its plant in Modi Nagar was delayed by two hours on April 20 due to traffic jam owing to the protest. The company reportedly had to travel an additional 100 km because of the protests.”
Rakesh Tikait- the “poor farmer” who emerged as the face of the ongoing farmers’ protest
Rakesh Tikait emerged as one of the leaders of the ongoing farmers’ protest and became the face of the movement representing all the farmers. According to a report published in DNA the average earning of a farmer in India per month is Rs. 6400. Various studies suggest that as many as 52 out of 100 farmers in India have an average loan of Rs. 1,40,000 and as many as 10,000 farmers died due to suicide in the year 2019. But the Bhartiya Kisan Union leader, Rakesh Tikait’s financial condition has a different story to tell. According to reports, Tikait has assets in four different states in India; Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Maharashtra. Rakesh Tikait’s net worth is a whopping Rs. 80 crores. While Rakesh Tikait is leading the protests since November last year, his business has been flourishing during all this time. Agriculture is only one part of his many other businesses which includes different areas such as lands, petrol pumps, showrooms, etc.
The hypocrisy of the Farmers’ protest
In the year 2013, The Punjab Contract Farming Act was introduced in the Assembly by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP government in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, with virtually no discussion at all on the provisions which included certain clauses that penalized the farmer for not meeting the obligations of the contract entered into by him with the purchaser.
A twitter user Rishi Bagree tweeted about the provision in this act which could imprison a farmer upon contravening. A farmer could be imprisoned upto one month or with a fine which shall not be less than Rs. 5000 which might be extended to Rs. 5 lakhs.
Farms bill by Punjab Govt has provisions for Hefty fines and imprisonment of farmers if they opt out of Contract farming mid way, whereas no such provision is there in new Farm Laws by Modi Govt.pic.twitter.com/IsVtku9RZp
— Rishi Bagree 🇮🇳 (@rishibagree) February 5, 2021
The so-called Twitter “farmers” have displayed their two-faced attitude by protesting the farm laws implemented by the Central government but did not utter a single word when the Punjab Government implemented similar laws with some scary provisions in the year 2013.
Foreign elements and their unwarranted opinion on India
Many foreign elements were involved in this protest as Justin Trudeau said, “Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest.” Most of the Indians strongly objected to this statement calling it ill-informed and unwarranted. Most of the Indian media condemned Trudeau for interfering in our internal matter.
Foreign elements like pop star Rihanna added fuel to the fire by Tweeting about the protests when as a matter of fact she or any other celebrity or climate activists have nothing to do with these farm laws.
The Washington Post called Modi’s India nothing short of a dictatorship. Vidya Krishnan, who writes for The Atlantic claimed that “The freedom of the press, a constitutional right, is endangered in Modi’s India. The brazen use of social media networks to censor journalists, the use of the police and courts to silence them, and, more fundamentally, the belief that those who report on protests are somehow undermining the state illustrate how much has changed in India, and how far the country has strayed from its founding ideals.”
An article in New York Times stated that India was heading down a dangerous path of intolerance as it curtailed free speech and press freedom. The Guardian wrote that the cases filed against The Caravan and the Wire, few media organizations which are willing to look at the government critically, is not a sheer coincidence at a time when most of the mainstream media has effectively become a propaganda outlet for Modi’s government.
The Indian liberal brigade along with the entire nexus of some national as well as international media made sure to demean Prime Minister Modi’s image and most importantly India’s image under the Modi government. India has been fighting with an external enemy, but it should not forget that it has to fight with an internal enemy of the Urban Naxals as well. These people are one of us but with a motive to degrade India’s image in the entire world. This is not the first time that such protests have erupted. India has been seeing this pattern of protests since CAA was passed. Violence erupted, roads were blocked for months, Delhi riots happened, misinformation was spread, the international media intervened and grabbed the opportunity to defame India calling it an autocratic state. It is high time that the government realizes that every time they bring reforms into the society, some left-leaning element in the society and its eco-system is bound to oppose those. It is time that the government takes strict actions against these elements that play with fire and create ploy to disrupt the nation’s harmony. While it is everyone’s right in a democratic country to protest and criticize and question the government’s decision, disrupting peace and creating nuisance should not be tolerated.
DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author