From opposition to support, the roller coaster farmers have been through
The three pieces of legislation introduced last year and the turmoil that followed brought farmers and agricultural policies back to the forefront, which could also impact policy outcomes.
Friday, September 17 marked the year of the enactment of the controversial agricultural laws in India.
The Three Laws – Agricultural Trade and Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020; Essential Products (Amendment) Act 2020; and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 – has divided the nation, leading to farmer-led unrest across the country over the past year.
What are the agricultural laws?
Agricultural Trade and Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020: this law allows farmers to extend their trading area from certain areas to âany place of production, collection, aggregationâ. They can also switch to e-commerce and e-commerce for the programmed products. This law prohibits state governments from levying market fees, taxes on farmers, traders, and e-commerce platforms.
Farmers Agreement (Empowerment and Protection) on Agricultural Price Insurance and Services Act 2020: According to this law, farmers can enter into pre-arranged contracts with buyers within a legal framework.
Essential Products Act 2020 (Amendment): This law removes foods such as grains, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds and oils from the list of essentials, removing the limits on storage of agricultural products produced by horticultural techniques, except under “extraordinary circumstances”. It allows the imposition of any stock limit on agricultural products only in the event of a sharp rise in prices.
The government has presented these laws as reforms close to the 1991 opening of the Indian economy linking it to globalized markets.
He argued that the three laws open up new opportunities for farmers so that they can earn more from their agricultural products.
The government said the new laws will help strengthen basic infrastructure in the agricultural sector through greater private investment.
Farmers’ fears and subsequent protests
Farmers, however, are not convinced of the laws. Their main apprehension is that the laws will eventually abolish the Center’s guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP) on certain crops, leaving them at the mercy of big business.
Reacting to the laws, farmers in Punjab announced a three-day rail roko on September 24, 2020.
Over the next three months, the unrest only escalated.
After a series of unorganized protests against agricultural laws, the farmers’ unions in Haryana and Punjab collectively appealed to the âDelhi Chaloâ movement on November 25, 2020, which officially sparked the unrest.
On November 26, during their “Delhi Chalo” march, farmers were confronted with water cannons and tear gas as police attempted to disperse them in Ambala district in Haryana. Police later allowed them to enter Delhi for their peaceful protest at Nirankari Field in northwest Delhi, where they started their indefinite protest.
To resolve the situation and find a middle way, the government called for a conversation with farmers’ representatives, which remained inconclusive.
As the protest began without a leader, Rakesh Tikait of the Union of Bharatiya Kisan emerged as the face of the protest.
On November 29, 2020, in his monthly radio program Mann ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that all political parties made promises to farmers but that it was his government that kept their promises.
âNew dimensions are being added to agriculture and its related activities in India. The agricultural reforms of the past few days have also opened new doors of possibilities for our farmers. These reforms have not only served to liberate our farmers, but have also given them new rights and opportunities, âsaid the Prime Minister.
He even assured that the MSP system would not be completely removed. While even seven rounds of talks between the government and farmers’ representatives remained unsuccessful, the Supreme Court agreed to hear petitions from both sides and decided to form a committee to resolve the impasse. The SC suspended the implementation of the three controversial laws.
Realizing that the government was not going to budge, the Bharatiya Kisan union appealed to the Supreme Court on December 11, 2020.
Finally, on January 12, 2021, farmers breathed a sigh of relief when the SC suspended implementation of the contentious laws and set up a four-member committee to make recommendations on the laws after listening to all parties. stakeholders.
The farmer unrest caught the attention of the international community when farmers marched to Red Fort on Republic Day and vandalized public property.
Some of the agitators even climbed the Red Fort and hoisted the Nishan Sahib flag.
International celebrities like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg tweeted in favor of the farmers. Thunberg also shared a toolkit on farmer protests.
The Center viewed these supportive tweets as “neither specific nor responsible” and even hinted at Khalistani’s support offered for the protests.
In August of this year, the protests turned political in nature with opposition leaders joining in, trying to portray the government as pro-industrial and anti-farmers.
Refusing to back down, the farm leaders behind the movement staged a large show of force in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, earlier this month, announcing in front of thousands of farmers their intention to campaign against the party. power in the state.
Support for agricultural laws
However, there is a section of people who view the laws as a revolutionary reform in the Indian agricultural sector, which would improve market efficiency and private investment.
In December, leading academics from India’s leading science and management institutes wrote to the prime minister in support of the farm laws.
âWe from academia at major institutes and universities would like to assure our support for the three agricultural laws passed by the Indian government. We have discussed with our fellow experts in this field and based on our discussion, we believe that this moment should not be missed. This is a golden opportunity for the reforms that have escaped agriculture since the industrial reforms of 1991. We are convinced that the time has come for agriculture and if these reforms are missed, agriculture will not have to do with it. ‘future in India,’ the letter reads.
Few other farmer organizations also lend their voice in favor of agricultural laws. Under the banner of the All India Kisan Coordinating Committee, the group of farmers from states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana have expressed support for the laws.
“Farmers have followed old techniques. So it is necessary to make changes to these laws,” they said.
Mark the year
Marking the completion of a year of enactment of controversial agricultural laws, Shiromani Akali Dal is organizing Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib’s âBlack Friday Protest Marchâ at the Parliament Building on Friday.
Likewise, the Aam Aadmi party has announced that it will hold candlelight marches through Punjab to pay tribute to farmers who have died in the ongoing agitation against agricultural laws.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also demanded the immediate removal of laws by the Union government, calling for detailed discussions to find a way forward with farmers.
With five state elections on the horizon and opposition parties joining the protesting farmers, will the Modi government be able to find the middle way? This, only time will reveal …