P FOR PROTESTING OR PESTERING?
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
Sejal Gupta, I Year of B.Com.,LL.B, from Institute of Law, Nirma University
Ashmita Biswas, I Year of B.Com.,LL.B, from Institute of Law, Nirma University
Over 40000 farmers and daily wagers
Committed suicide as per NCRB 2019.
Hate crime is rising rapidly,
In this land of delightful diversity.
There is too much money
Going to the untruth to prepare
Colorful shrouds for truth.
Love is a crime now.
I agree, there is too much democracy.
Recently the agricultural sector has been in the news repeatedly because of the amendments made in Farm Bill. While the government claims that these amendments are beneficial to farmers, the farmers are hell-bent on making reforms.
The farmer has, therefore, taken to the streets ignoring the pandemic situation, expressing their disapproval for the bill via a protest.
The farmers have pinpointed three problematic changes upon which they have based their fight. The first one is 'State governments imposing fee/cess on the private mandis.' The farmers say that this would push both the government-run markets and intermediaries along with the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) towards a conclusion, hence, laying the ball in the courts of big traders and giant companies. Giving these companies higher bargaining power (as they are, the only buyers left). They are thus able to buy farm goods at minor prices. This makes the farming sector inefficient and lays a hard blow on the revenue earned by the farmers.
The government retaliates the above by saying that they will always keep their hands extended towards farmers. They conform to this through a written assurance. The second problem thus describes 'Written assurance from the government for the continuation of the existing MSP system'. The government's written assurance is not a legally binding document. The farmers, therefore, demand documents that will help them procure a guarantee.
Lastly, 'State governments can register traders to regulate them'. The absence of criteria based on which a person could enter or exit the farm sector stimulates an increase in competition for farmers. This again increases the buyer's bargaining power, decreasing the revenue earned by farmers. This is threatening to farmers, especially the ones that earn their livelihood through farming.
HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE IN INDIA
Agriculture in India began in early 9000 BC. The primary sector of any economy lies as the base upon which the economy is built. Agriculture being a large part of the primary sector, it is safe to say that both the secondary and tertiary sectors are dependent on it. Hence, the prosperity of the agricultural sector is essential for the prosperity of India.
During the time of colonialism, the British made symbolic changes in the agricultural field. Changes were made in two ways: the introduction of a new land revenue system and commercializing agriculture. Both changes had negatively affected the farm sector and had frequently led it towards famines. Clearly, the British were not interested in India's development.
This was only the beginning of agricultural exploitation by the British. Lord Cornwallis had later gone on and introduced the 'zamindary system' wherein private landlords collected fixed land revenues and deposited an enhanced amount to the State. Although the zamindary system brought a lot of revenues to the State, it was fast exhaustion of the factor of production of land; hence, the British couldn’t profit for long through this system. This is probably what happens when you let go of the bird in hand to catch two in the bush.
The South-Indian states, however, were able to escape the British exploitation. Therefore, in modern days the South Indian farmers are richer than the North Indian farmers and have access to more land. This is probably why there is nearly no protest in the South, barring a few exceptions in Karnataka.
With the end of colonialism came a light of hope for the farm sector. This light shone in the form of the green revolution from 1967-1978. During this time India was able to develop efficient and sustainable technology to produce crops. This process single-handedly lifted India out of a stage of food deficiency to a surplus food market.
WHAT ARE THE MUCH-DEBATED FARM LAWS?
The public authority as of late enacted three laws — the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — as a component of an expansive procedure to change India's agribusiness.
The public authority has contended that these laws are pointed toward moving the terms for ranchers by disposing of corrupt mediators and personal stakes that twisted business sectors.
WHY ARE FARMERS DISSENTING?
Farmers dread that the new laws would introduce large corporate gatherings into agribusiness produce markets. This could make restraining infrastructures, permitting them to fix costs at low levels, harming ranchers.
The fight revolves around the fear of losing the haggling power of huge companies and the opportunity of private brokers entering unregulated horticulture produce markets.
They feel that the new law could suggest that the public authority will, at last, prevent purchasing from them at MSPs, leaving ranchers helpless before huge enterprises.
A group of Buddhist monks from Lucknow have also set up camps near the Delhi-UP Border. They vowed to protest till the farmer's demands are met. This led to a further uproar in the community.
INTERACTION WITH COVID
Tossing social distancing standards aside, many farmers who are at present fighting at two spots in New Delhi have left the specialists stressed.
Sources say that around 300 of the protesters are sick and symptomatic of carrying the virus. They, however, refuse to undergo the COVID-test process.
"We have set up two Covid-19 counters at Singhu Border and are regularly screening the protesters. Ten teams of doctors and paramedical staff have been deployed. An average of 70 to 90 people visiting us every day have been diagnosed with fever, muscular pain, or increased blood pressure," says Deputy Commissioner Sonipat, Shyam Lal Punia.
"We regularly monitor the situation. The patients are not ready for the Covid-19 tests. We distributed 50,000 masks, but, they are neither following the social distancing nor wearing the masks. The senior citizens say Covid-19 is nothing," says Shyam Lal Punia.
ECONOMY OF PROTESTS
In the present years, India ranks second in terms of agricultural output. The agricultural sector contributes for 18% of India's gross domestic product and employs 58% of its working population. Therefore, any variation in this sector has a significant impact on the overall economy of India.
The farmers state that the new law reform has lowered their crop price, hence, made a dent in their earnings, bringing down the country’s overall GDP. The government on the other hand (represented by Hardeep Singh Puri) says that the farmers protesting have not only decreased farm production but, also the production of relative sectors. He says that the Indian economy has already faced a setback of 23.9% GDP due to the ongoing pandemic. Farmers protesting forms a further barrier to the on-going economic revival process. They say that the protest is unconstructive and that the farmers should stand with the other citizens of India during these hard times. Farmers have always been considered in India as givers (as they provide us with food) thus, their behavior is unexpected.
UNDERSTANDING THE GOVERNMENT’S SIDE
Numerous market analysts state that a law ordering MSP as the floor cost for the acquisition of 23 significant staples could be inflationary. A private dealer purchasing wheat and paddy at MSP consistently would essentially get converted into greater costs for definite buyers.
There would be years when the MSP is higher than the predominant worldwide business sectors. This would forestall an agri-ware exporter to purchase at a more exorbitant cost and fare at a lower rate.
Likewise, what occurs if private brokers avoid purchasing these items at MSP in any event, for the home-grown market? This would bring about the public authority or the FCI being the solitary, imposing business model purchaser on the lookout.
"The agreement cultivating law as of now restricts move, deal, rent, a home loan of a rancher's property. Agribusinesses (supports) can't take ranchers' property because of any explanation emerging out of legally binding cultivating. If necessary, a new explanation on this will be given," the public authority expressed
Farmers have been requesting a motivation of Rs 200 for every quintal of the harvest build-up to choices other than consuming monetarily reasonable. The Supreme Court has just said the public authority may consider giving Rs1 00 for each quintal. The Centre can consider paying an immediate sponsorship of Rs 200 for each quintal to ranchers to forestall stubble consumption.
WHAT DOES THE SC HAVE TO SAY?
We hear that India is a liberal country, but how many times have we failed to live up to this? George Orwell once said, 'If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear.' The farmer's protest serves as an epitome of this quote. The Supreme Court has stated that by protesting, farmers are exercising their fundamental right to freedom of speech. If the protest doesn't get violent, it is an 'absolutely perfect protest'. The CJI S.A Bobde says that the farmers should protest with a purpose in mind and that if they are ready to negotiate, a special committee will be created to discuss their demands. The farmers have countered this by saying that if there has been any violence, it has come from the police's side. They referred to historic protests like the one in Los Angeles while explaining how these protests engage media attention, which in turn reaches out to more ears. This would increase public opinion on the issue; thus, put pressure on the government to engage in action. By this, they have made their purpose clear.
THE COMPLICITY OF KHALISTAN AND CANADA
US-settled supportive of Khalistan outfit Sikhs for Justice (SJF) has taken steps to close offices in different urban areas across the world considering the ranchers' fights. The outfit has cautioned that it will close departments in London, Birmingham, Frankfurt, Toronto, Washington DC through work vehicle rallies on the side of the ranchers in Punjab.
India had denounced the remarks and asked the Canadian government to cease enjoying India's inward issues. These remarks have empowered social affairs of fanatic exercises before our High Commission and Consulates in Canada that raise issues of wellbeing and security. We anticipate that the Canadian Government should guarantee the fullest security of the Indian strategic workforce and its political chiefs to avoid professions that legitimize fanatic activism," the MEA had said.
In a huge turn of events, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) charge-sheeted 16 individuals under the counter-fear law. These people are situated in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, and as indicated by the NIA charge sheet, the people were engaged with a trick to make a mission under the pennant of 'Choice 2020' for the formation of 'Khalistan'.
The farming industry is very important to us. It not only forms a firm ground upon which we build our economy; it is an industry that provides us with food which is essential for living. We thus, invest in this industry emotionally. We believe that being liberal citizens of India, farmers have the fundamental right to protest non-violently. However, the present time doesn’t support their movement. During the pandemic, protest increases the risk of transmission of the disease; hence, increasing pressure on the already weak medical industry. It also creates a great dent in the economic growth of India.
The farmers could try alternative methods such as protesting over social media.
This would also attract media, hence, create pressure on the government in a similar way as explained above. This process though lengthier would still allow the farmers to achieve their aim. The Sushant Singh Rajput case serves as a personification of this process. The farmers should understand that their anger over the amendment in law shouldn't turn out to be harmful to themselves and the ones they love.