India: Farmers on the borders of Delhi have accused the government of lacking sympathy for their community and announced a day of mourning for those farmers who are claiming to have died during the agitation.
35 farmer organizations have said that mourning will be observed in villages across the country on Sunday for the 20 farmers who lost their lives during the farmer movement that began on 26 November.
President of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Siddhpur) Jagjit Singh said, “Since this movement started on 26 November, on an average one farmer has died every day. We will pay tribute to all the farmers who were martyred during this period on December 20 in all villages of the country. When their names and pictures reach the villages, more people will come forward to join our struggle.”
On Tuesday, four farmers died in two separate road accidents in and around Mohali and Patiala districts of Punjab, India. The case of the death of these farmers remained the subject of discussion on the Singhu border on Tuesday, where farmers from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand also came to join the movement.
The day farmers’ organizations announced their plans, on the same day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the opposition is one behind this agitation and are confusing the farmers. In response, the farmers accused the government of lacking sympathy for the farming community.
Farmer leaders also said that the result of their pressure on the Center is that the government has decided to cancel the winter session of Parliament. He said that by canceling the session, the government wants to avoid the questions of the opposition.
Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (Tikait) general secretary Yudhveer Singh Sehrawat said, “We elected the Prime Minister and gave him the power to speak and in the last 20 days till now he has not said anything for us.”
Why are farmers protesting?
On 20 and 22 September 2020, the Parliament of India passed three agricultural bills. On 27 September, the President of India Ramnath Kovind approved these Bills, after which all three became law. Farmers are protesting against the provisions of these laws.
Through these laws, the mandis of the existing APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee) as well as private companies will also have the right to contract with farmers, in addition to contract farming, purchase and storage of food grains.
Farmers who have been protesting, fear that the government can stop the purchase of crops like wheat and paddy from the farmers and they will have to completely rely on the market.
Farmers also fear that this will benefit private companies and the problems of farmers will increase with the end of the minimum support price.
Although the three new laws do not include the closure of APMC mandis or the end of the MSP system, farmers fear that this will happen in the end as private companies enter the market through these laws.
In 2019-20, the central government purchased 80 thousand crore rupees of wheat and paddy in Punjab and Haryana. Most of these farmers are small and marginal farmers.
Due to the fear that the government may reduce or stop the purchase of grains due to the arrival of private companies, the farmers of Punjab started protesting against these laws from June-July. The farmers of Haryana joined the protest in September.
This protest was going on in Punjab and Haryana for the last few months, but then there was no interaction between the central government and the farmers who were protesting, although political opposition to the three laws was also taking place.
In such a situation, the farmers who protested reached the Delhi border on 26-27 November, after which the government started talks with the farmers’ organizations. After this, farmers from other states besides Punjab and Haryana also started joining the protests.
What are the three new agricultural laws?
The three agricultural laws that farmers are opposing are as follows:
1. Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Simplification) Act-2020
2. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Agricultural Services Act-2020
3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act-2020
Under these laws, farmers can sell and sell their agricultural products in the open market apart from APMC market. Farmers are most opposed to this issue.
Farmers say that if they sell their crop outside the market of APMC at market rate, then they may get benefit for a short time but later there will be no guarantee of payment at fixed rate like MSP.
The protesting farmers also fear that they will not be able to get minimum support price due to these laws. However, the government says that ‘agricultural laws do not affect the MSP system and the APMC mandis’. Farmers are also asking what will happen to the commissioners and commission agents if APMC mandis are not there?
Contractual farming has been approved under the new laws. That is, farmers can now produce grains by contracting directly with wholesalers, processing industries and private companies.
In this, agreement can be made by deciding the price of the crop. The government claims that this provision will bring full profit to the farmers, middlemen will not have to pay any share.
But farmers are opposing contractual farming. There are two major concerns of farmers about this –
The first concern is whether the rural farmer will be in a position to negotiate with private companies for a fair price for his crop?
And secondly, they fear that private companies may reduce the price of their crops on the basis of quality and stop buying.
With the help of new laws, the government has removed pulses, oilseeds, onions and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. The government says that there will be no restriction on storage of these products, this will bring private investment and prices will remain stable.
On the other hand, the farmers say that with these provisions, private companies will start storing these products on a large scale and there will be an artificial reduction in the supply of these products in the market for their own benefit.
Farmers also say that when they have to produce according to the wishes of such companies, they will get less prices.