The farmers’ movement had erupted like a volcano, in the wake of the Centre passing three agrarian laws in 2020, and continued till the laws were repealed. It is currently dormant at the national level, but remains active in some states. As the days pass, it is certain that agrarian issues will continue to dominate the political narrative of the opposition parties.

The reason why the rural hinterland continues to simmer with unrest is that the agrarian crisis is deepening. As Inderjeet, an All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader from Haryana said, “the passing of three laws and their subsequent withdrawal in the face of the movement was just a small phase. The pressing issues prior to that continue to stand. The deepening agrarian crisis has not abated. The cost of production continues to increase while the returns are decreasing both in crop production and animal husbandry.”

Whether it is Punjab which was the cradle of the farmers’ movement, or Haryana, a need is being felt for a united action, on the issues on which the farmers accuse the government of dithering or not responding. These include addressing the demand for a minimum support price (MSP) on all the crops, withdrawal of cases registered against the farmers during the course of the agitation, and sacking of union minister of state for home Ajay Mishra Teni for the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre.

Just ahead of the recent state Assembly polls Punjab witnessed a fracture in the unity of the farmers’ organisations. Some of them were ‘suspended’ from the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) which was the umbrella body leading the farmers’ movement across the country. They were ‘suspended’ for forming a political front Sanyukta Samaj Morcha (SSM) to contest the polls, while the SKM remains non-political and does not allow any party to utilise its stage.

Sources on the ground say that talks are on with constituents of the SSM to bring them under the SKM umbrella. But some unions are keen on getting a foothold on mainstream politics.

“There are two aspects that need to be understood. One is that of a movement ,while the other is to operate in the political sphere and increase your space. There is a move towards expansion and consolidation while also being a pressure group. There is a competition among them. Who had thought that all of them would come together? It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi (through his policies) who united them. They might come together for a common cause again,” said Prof Manjeet Singh, a sociologist who has been associated with SSM.

He said the farmers’ movement has presented a role model where awareness among common people grew. “It’s just a matter of time before a major movement picks up again as several issues remain unresolved by the central government.

Meanwhile, the struggle continues with the state government, as issues keep cropping up one after the other,” said Narayan Dutt of Inquilabi Kendra Punjab.

The farmers had camped outside Chandigarh for a day last week, as they sought a fresh schedule for staggered sowing of paddy and other demands. The protest was called off following a meeting with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann where some of their demands were met.

Similarly, there were demonstrations in district headquarters across Haryana on Tuesday with the farmers raising their demands like compensation for low yield of wheat on account of high temperatures. The farmers want this to be treated as a natural calamity. They also demanded tubewell connections for those who have applied for the same along with regular power supply to facilitate agriculture operations. The call for the protests had been given by 30 organisations under SKM Haryana.

Meanwhile, there has also been a split in the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. One of the office bearers announced a new outfit on the occasion of the death anniversary of BKU’s founder Mahendra Singh Tikait. It is being alleged that the split was ‘engineered’ by those wary of farmers’ unity and its possible political ramifications.

Some of the recent developments underline that the agrarian issues will continue to dominate the political narratives as the country heads towards the next parliamentary polls in 2024.

Punjab Chief Minister Mann along with his counterparts Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi and K Chandrashekhar Rao of Telangana, had come together at Chandigarh on May 22 to pay tributes to the farmers from Punjab and Haryana who lost their lives during farmers’ agitation and also the martyrs of Galwan Valley.

Mann reiterated his government’s firm commitment to make agriculture an economically viable and profitable profession so as to motivate our youngsters to opt their ancestral occupation with pride and dignity. Kejriwal said there was tremendous pressure on his government by the Centre to stall the farmers’ agitation by converting all the stadiums of Delhi into open jails. He said since he knew the significance of any mass movement as he was also at the forefront of the ‘Anna Andolan’, he didn’t buckle under central government’s pressure.

Rao exhorted the farmers to resume their agitation for all the demands including MSP on all crops with constitutional guarantee from the Centre. He said this struggle should not be only restricted to Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh and rather all the farmers from other states should proactively come forward for getting their genuine demands accepted.

He also briefly highlighted the significant initiatives taken by his government for the promotion of crop diversification, free electricity in the farm sector and overall development of farmers besides ensuring 24x7 power for all categories of consumers.

Rao categorically opposed the Centre’s move to install electricity meters in the farm sector saying, “We have already passed a resolution in the state assembly that Telangana government will not go for this in the larger interest of the farming community”.

Meanwhile, following persistent efforts by Mann, the Government of India has agreed to implement a Price Support Scheme for procurement of Moong crop in Punjab for this year’s Rabi season. Mann during his recent meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, impressed upon the latter to issue notification for the purchase of Basmati on MSP. He said it is need of hour to bring the farmers out of the rut of wheat-paddy cycle which will help in saving water besides giving boost to crop diversification. He sought a compensation of Rs 500 per quintal for low yield of wheat in the state.

In Haryana, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala has claimed that the state government is committed to buying every grain of wheat at MSP. He said farmers are being paid for their crops on time and the money is being sent directly to their bank accounts. So far, Rs 7513.62 crore has been transferred to the accounts of farmers.He added that this time 92 mandis were prepared for the procurement of mustard, 411 for wheat, 11 for gram and 25 for barley. He said the government procured Rabi crops at MSP as committed.

Recently, Congress leader and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had attacked the state government for ignoring the demands of the farmers. He sought a bonus on wheat for farmers. The prices are skyrocketing in the international market because of the Russia-Ukraine war. He reportedly said the farmers in the country should get the benefit.

Inderjeet from AIKS explained, “the farmers are feeling cheated as they sold almost 50 per cent of the produce to private traders. The government should have announced an extra bonus in the first place to ensure that most of the crop went into the government pool. The traders will sit on their stock and less wheat in the government pool may lead to problems in the public distribution system.”

Ink attack on farm leader Rakesh Tikait in Karnataka | Nagaland Post

Cover Photograph: Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait attacked while addressing a press conference at Bengaluru. He was hit by a microphone and blank ink was thrown at him as his supporters tried to drive away the group that had barged into the venue.