New Delhi : Thousands of farmers are at Delhi’s borders protesting over the three farm bills passed by Parliament in September. Albeit 53% of the Indian economy is dependent on agriculture as a way of living, due to a cocktail of problems like over-interference of middlemen and weak agricultural infrastructure, millions of India’s small and marginal farmers have been living in abject poverty.
The Modi government citing this as a reason and presumably acting to liberate the farmers from the old ‘mandi’ structure and to free them from the chain of middlemen, introduced three farm bills. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Bill 2020, The Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and The Essential Commodities Bill. All three bills were passed in both the houses of parliament, but soon followed a backlash for the Modi government as massive protests erupted in the national capital New Delhi. So, why are the farmers against the new farm laws ?
The opposition parties have termed the bill as a “death warrant” for poor farmers, but PM Modi countered the claims and pointed the passage of the bills as a “watershed moment” for Indian farmers. Small and marginal farmers mainly from the northern grain-producing regions of Punjab and Haryana have been vehemently protesting against the bill, still it is unclear whether Modi government will roll back the already enacted farm laws. Farmers want the withdrawal of the three laws which deregulate the sale of their crops. If the farms will not be able get any profit with the new farm laws then Who will benefit from it ?
The massive protest in the borders of Delhi has farmers from Punjab and Haryana as its main constituents. Though the new farm laws incited protests in north Indian states, farmers from other states have not joined the protests except by giving verbal support. For most of the farmers, MSP (Minimum Support Price) is not a moving issue. According to the reports from various sources, less than 10 percent farmers benefit from MSP. The three bills passed by Parliament will remove barriers to inter-state trade of crops and facilitate electronic trading of farm produce. Meanwhile the farmers claim that it would ultimately end the mandi system and free-market players would announce their terms and conditions.
For Indian farmers, trusting the government’s new bill seem to be the real hurdle as many promises, given by the current central government and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself in many of his speeches, have not yet been been fulfilled and most of them even completely forgotten about. After the protests intensified, the Modi government tried to clarify that the minimum price guarantee for farm produce will continue. However, the minimum pricing mechanism is used by all the governments either to strengthen their vote banks or to calm the farmers after an election. As the farmers have been receiving many unfulfilled assurances by the many successive governments, they find it harder to trust the current rulers and fear that the new laws will further dilute the price guarantee they enjoy and put them in more dire straits.