India, our nation, is once again in turmoil regarding the three Farm Bills passed by the government, while the country’s common people are still struggling through the effects of COVID restrictions.
It was in September 2020 that the opposition to these bills was started by the farmers of the states of Haryana and Punjab and later spread to other states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh, along with other smaller level protests in several other states of India.
The Current Situation
Since the central government did not heed any pay to their concerns, the farmers decided to move towards Delhi, under Delhi Chalo March, with a desire to conduct peaceful protests to question the Farm Bills. But they were severely obstructed by Haryana state security officials. The farmers were lathi-charged, manhandled, and arrested while crossing the state. The police also dug trenches, barricaded roads, and filed ‘attempt to murder’ cases against several leaders to discourage the protests.
Despite these hardships, thousands and thousands of farmers and small businessmen managed to reach at Delhi Borders, but they were not allowed to enter the capital. The security officials stopped them on the pretext of COVID restrictions, and such mass gatherings cannot be allowed. Later the Centre allowed them to protest at Burari ground, but farmers refused as they feared it can turn into an open jail for them.
After days of farmers, both young and old, along with their families, cooking, eating, and sleeping on roads in these shivering cold nights, the Centre today agreed to talk to them without any conditions. We need to wait and watch what coming days hold for the farmers.
However, let’s try to dive deep into this giant whirlpool of Indian problems and observe the situation from a third eye; let’s attempt to reach conclusions rather than merely taking sides.
The Government’s Vision of the Farm Bill 2020
According to the centre, the three Farm Bills 2020 are solely made for the empowerment of farmers. The key points of these bills are,
- The new laws will allow the farmers to sell their produce in any part of India at the price that they like.
- Traders will have to make payments instantly or within three days for the entire produce collected from the scheduled farmers.
- The farmers will not have to pay any market fees for trading, and they’ll also be provided online platforms for trading.
Why are the Farmers Worried?
Why do they want to protest while the bill looks like a jackpot of benefits for the farmers?
Are they driven by some agenda; do they want a separate country?
Or is it because they are illiterate and do not understand how beneficial these bills are?
Well, our farmers are all sensible enough, and they fear the fact that these bills may have some terrible consequences. Hidden under the veil of benefits, these bills may be an opening gate for corporate firms to handcuff the local businesses and farmers at the same time.
Here are some of the fears of the farmers and other small businesses:
- Though the government boasts that the farmers can now sell their products anywhere in the country, it also means that giant corporate firms and traders from any part of the country may interfere with the internal trade of a state.
For example, if prices of wheat are currently less in Gujarat, it may increase just because a trader in Tamil Nadu or a giant supermarket chain wants to pay more and invade the business.
- Literally, thousands of small businessmen, from small level intrastate traders to local thela-valas and street vendors, will find trouble to get products as farmers will be lured to sell the produce outside the state at high prices.
- It may look attractive to farmers at the beginning, but in the long run, when all local small businesses will be handcuffed, farmers will run out of options and end up being puppets at the hands of corporate malls as they will be the only ones capable of buying such volume of products. A key indicator to this is the mention of contract-based farming in the Farm Bill, which says that a farmer may enter into contracts for periods of time with a trader on a fixed price basis.
- With mandis and market yards losing control, the power basically shifts from the states to the centre and other huge corporate firms, which may also be worrying for the democratic system of the country.
India is a diverse country and can never be ruled by singular powers. The farmers are not from Haryana or Punjab; they are farmers of the country, they belong to the most farm-rich states of India, and they are worried.
Citizens and Duties
Understandably, digitalization, flexibility, and transparency are all necessary factors for our country’s farmers to prosper. However, there are also some concerning questions that a citizen may want to ask:
- The government says that the intention is to empower the farmers, but in the process of doing so, is it necessary to strangulate all other small businesses?
- Are there any laws to save farmers from binding and enslaving contracts that may result in more farmer suicides in the country?
- Is it safe for the democracy that states lose control over their resources and handover the entire infrastructure into the hands of a few business tycoons?
The world is changing, and it is obvious if India wants to make a place among the developed countries of the world, it needs to make modern changes in its infrastructure.
However, she also needs responsible citizens to ask responsible questions for the sake of democracy and freedom.
On a final note, Jai Hind!
[Images Credit: outlookindia, zeenews.com]