Farming looks mighty easy when your plough is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the cornfield."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
It’s been almost six months since the farmers of Punjab and Haryana decided to march to Delhi from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and many more states to protest against the introduction of new farm laws by the government. The farm laws were passed in a very irresponsible manner (by a voice vote instead of a recorded note) and were under a lot of criticism and scrutiny before they were even passed.
The farm laws introduced by the government gave the farmers the opportunity to enter the nation/international market to sell their produce or have a direct relationship with the big corporates and get into contracts to sell their produce. Corporates or multinationals bring new technology which also gives the opportunity for technological advancement and would also increase sales. But according to farmers, its long terms impact overshadows every benefit it might have as corporations would try to control the market and will eventually have a monopoly over the farming system. Also, farmers don’t want to remove the middleman system and want it to prevail even though middlemen exploit them many times.
Corporates have the potential to bring along a good storage system with them and preserve a large amount of food but it can also manipulate the supply and demand in the market.
Minimum Support Price or MSP is the minimum price the government has to pay to the farmers in exchange for a crop. If MSP gets removed, the farmers would only get paid for a good crop and might face huge losses in case his crop fails due to weather conditions, poor quality of seeds, etc. The benefits of MSP are mostly availed by farmers of Punjab and Haryana and that’s one of the reasons they’re at the forefront of the protests.
If we see all the laws apart from each other, they might not look damaging but when we weave them together, they might have the potential of bringing in a monopolised corporate system which might result in long term exploitation of the farmers.
Farmers of Punjab and Haryana cultivate paddy in large quantities, this is mainly because it requires less labour and is quite easy to take care of. The government fears that the majority of the farmers will turn to sow paddy instead of other crops and they’ll have to buy the surplus paddy at the end of the day at the MSP. Also, paddy isn’t sustainable to grow in Punjab as it deteriorates the quality of the soil and enhances the use of insecticides and pesticides which will be harmful in the long run. Wheat isn’t grown much which results in the import of wheat and the price of wheat rises which creates an imbalance between supply and demand.
Since the past six months, a lot has happened. Many talks have taken place between the farmers and the government but they’ve not arrived at a conclusion yet, the Republic Day incident, international support from various leaders and celebrities and now, amidst the second wave of COVID-19, farmers seemed to lose the momentum of their movement but by observing 26th May as the Black Day, they’ve come right back to the track and gained media’s attention.
More than 400 farmers have lost their lives during the process and have no plans for going back unless PM Modi withdraws the laws. Also, the government is struggling with the increased rise of COVID-19 and vaccine shortage in India and aren’t likely to reach a conclusion for the farmer’s protests at the present moment. It might take a few more months.
The government can deal with it in a number of ways - by agreeing with the farmers, by sidelining the entire movement, by reaching out to the farmers and finding a solution that resonates with both sides. There’s a lot at stake for the government too as its political image is declining and people are starting to think the government doesn’t care about its people.
How will they understand the plight of a farmer who works 15 hours a day in scorching heat to produce food for the whole country while they travel everywhere in air-conditioned SUVs?
There is a lot of misinformation and confusion on both sides of the argument. No side is correct and everything will get better only when both sides are ready to listen, talk and reach a conclusion.
Author: Vanshika Jain