RAJEEV KHANNA | 14 SEPTEMBER, 2020
Farmers Back on the Roads in Protests Across States
To stage demonstration outside Parliament
Even as the majority of the media houses are busy keeping the masses away from real issues, farmers across India are scripting a very different and important story through protests and demonstrations in different states.
In Haryana thousands marched to the Pipli grain market from Ambala, Kurukshetra and Yamunanagar. The farmers mobilised by farmer unions and organisations, covered the roads of Haryana with the police using force at different points to disperse them. Volunteers with the march urged the farmers to remain peaceful, and finally Haryana Chief Minister had to respond by setting up a three member committee to study the ordinances.
The main issue at this point of time is the opposition to the three farm ordinances that were announced by the central government in June this year. The opposition to the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 is a common factor across the states. This is being dovetailed with local issues to convey to the ruling parties that the voice of the farmers cannot be suppressed.
“The leaders of farmer organizations like ours have been going to Chaupals in the villages telling the people how the fancy sounding ordinances are anti farmer. We tell them that had these moves been pro farmer and pro people, the government would not have chosen the ordinance route to introduce them instead of tabling the bills in the Parliament. Ordinances are meant only for emergency situations. Can the government tell what the emergency is in the middle of the lockdown? We have been telling the people that these ordinances take away the Minimum Support Price (MSP) guarantee and this would impact the Public Distribution System (PDS) in the long run. It is only the grain procured through MSP for food security that is disbursed under the PDS. We have also been telling them that the government moves would eventually lead to black marketing and legalizing of hoarding,” AIKS Haryana leader Inderjeet told The Citizen.
The farmers in Haryana have also been agitating for compensation for their cotton loss because of white fly and the failure of the state government to install tube wells despite the farmers having paid the money.
Neighbouring Punjab, the food bowl of the country too has been witnessing a series of protests against the three farm ordinances and the proposal to ‘rationalise’ power subsidy. These protests are taking place across the state by various farmers’ organizations. The farmers are joined in these protests by a large number of women and youth.
“Somehow the message that has gone out is that agriculture will be doomed by the agriculture policies that are being pursued by the government. This has led to the protests spreading like wildfire. Even on Monday, protests are slated to take place across five districts of the state including Amritsar, Phagwara, Barnala, Patiala and Moga,” a Sangrur based observer said.
Dr Gian Singh who is an expert on agriculture economics based in Patiala told The Citizen, “The protests are only going to increase as once implemented, the ordinances or laws will have a negative impact on farmers, farm labour and rural artisans. The policies being followed will lead to people losing employment. Even the present data available shows that maximum suicide victims are daily wagers. It cannot be said whether the long term impact of these developments would reflect in a movement or crime or something else. I also feel that ahead of the polls, the government would offer a lollypop to the farmers but the latter will eventually realize that even the lollipop offered is bland and not sweet.”
The impact of the farm unrest is such that even the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) which is an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has urged the centre to move ahead on the ordinances only after the apprehensions of the farmers are addressed.
Party leader Daljit Singh Cheema stated in a tweet, "SAD #CoreCommittee discussed ordinances to be introduced by the Centre and decided that SAD president S.Sukhbir Singh Badal will lead a delegation to Delhi on Monday to discuss issues related to the ordinance to ensure omission of errors in the forthcoming Act."
In Himachal Pradesh the farmers, particularly the horticulturists, are simmering with discontent. With the stone fruit season being lost to the lockdown, they continue to face problems with the ongoing apple season.
“We have chalked out a roadmap to raise the issues once the apple harvest is over. The farmer is feeling let down. “The crashing prices of apples are a big issue. It is because of manipulation by big corporations as the state looks the other way. The apple grower failed to get proper fungicides and insecticides during the lockdown which led to the fall in quality of the produce and even scab. Now they are propagating an unscientific ‘zero budget’ farming model which does not work for apple that needs a proper treatment of pesticides and other chemicals,” said Sanjay Chauhan, who is the general secretary of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and also an apple grower himself
The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) organised a massive demonstration at Kirawali village of Wada tehsil in Palghar district in Maharashtra on September 11 as well.
“Besides the opposition to the three farm ordinances, the tribals from the area raised the issue of the non implementation of the Forest Rights Act of 2006. They also raised the issue of the officials using the lockdown to destroy the crops cultivated traditionally by the tribals on forest land. They raised the issues pertaining to the environment in context of the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification,” AIKS national president Dr Ashok Dhawale said.
He further disclosed that the farmers in a ‘land to the tiller’ demand asked for rights to the tracts of temple trust lands they have been tilling for ages.
“The Maharashtra government recently announced a relief of Rs 4000 for the tribals to be given partly as cash and partly as grains in view of the hardships being faced because of the lockdown and delayed harvest of paddy that would take place in October and November. We have demanded that the relief be disbursed immediately. Then of course were the demands on expansion of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), waiver of massive power bills and radical improvement in public health facilities besides others,” he added.
The local administration held parleys with the demonstrators for more than three hours and gave ‘concrete assurances’ on local demands.
“We have planned similar events in the tribal districts in the days to come. We have also planned a demonstration against the three or ordinances outside Parliament on September 14. The broad based All India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee which is an umbrella organization of various farmers’ groups has drawn up a road map for the coming months where we will be launching farmer struggles on the issues of debt waiver, implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, against plummeting prices and against the crop insurance introduced by the government that is simply adding to the profits of the corporate,” Dhawale told The Citizen.
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