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PM Modi should talk directly to farmers

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Ignoring farmer demands, how can we find a solution to the problem if we continue to not even recognise the problem and simply ignore it?

By Sanjeeb Kumar 

I don't know how many farmers were present at the Ghazipur (Delhi-Uttar Pradesh) border by 30 th January, but today somewhere around 20,000 have gathered to protest against the agriculture laws as I went to border to check ground reality. Many believe that its good time that Prime Minster (PM)Narendra Modi himself should reach out to farmers instead of orchestrating through his leaders. Many of the protesters were heard saying that the personal reputation of the PM is getting increasingly on stake and a personal intervention by him can bring some kind of a solution to the raging issue.

As per ground report, rising anger against the Modi government over its approach against farmers who are protesting across the country In Punjab, small-scale protests had started in August 2020 when the farm bills were made public and demanding the rollback of the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Beginning of Protests

In Punjab, small-scale protests had started in August 2020 when the Farm Bills were made public. It was only after the passage of the acts that more farmers and farm unions across India joined the protests against the reforms. On 25 September 2020 farm unions all over India called for a Bharat Bandh (lit. transl. nation-wide shutting down) to protest against these farm laws. The most widespread protests took place in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh but demonstrations were also reported in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka,Tamil Nadu, Odisha,Kerala and other states. Railway services have remained suspended in Punjab for more than two months due to the protests, starting from October. Following this, farmers from different states then marched to Delhi to protest against the laws. On the other hand, Farmers also criticized the national media for misrepresenting the protest.

In certain parts of India, bullock-cart rallies in support of farmer's protest have also been organized by marginal farmers.

So far nine rounds of talks have taken place between the Modi government and farmers represented by the farm unions between 14 October 2020 and 15 January 2021; all were inconclusive. Even farm leaders have rejected a Supreme Court of India stay order on the farm laws as well as the involvement of a Supreme Court appointed committee as farmer unions and their representatives have demanded that the laws be repealed and will not accept anything short of it.

Farmer unions' demands
The farmer unions believe that the laws will open the sale and marketing of agricultural products outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers. Further, the laws will allow inter-state trade and encourage hike electronic trading of agricultural produce. The new laws prevent the state governments from collecting a market fee, cess, or levy for trade outside the APMC markets; this has led the farmers to believe the laws will "gradually end the mandi system" and "leave farmers at the mercy of corporates". Further, the farmers believe that the laws will end their existing relationship with artisans (commission agents who act as middlemen by providing financial loans, ensuring timely procurement, and promising adequate prices for their crop).

Additionally, protesting farmers believe dismantling the APMC mandis will encourage abolishing the purchase of their crops at the minimum support price. They are therefore demanding the minimum support prices to be guaranteed by the government.

As of January 31, farmers' demands include:

Make minimum support price (MSP) and state procurement of crops a legal right
Assurances that conventional procurement system will remain
Implement Swaminathan Panel Report and peg MSP at least 50% more than weighted average cost of production
Cut diesel prices for agricultural use by 50%
Repeal of Commission on Air Quality Management in NCR and the adjoining Ordinance 2020 and removal of punishment and fine for stubble burning
Release of farmers arrested for burning paddy stubble in Punjab
Abolishing the Electricity Ordinance 2020
Centre should not interfere in state subjects, decentralization in practice
Withdrawal of all cases against and release of farmer leaders

Conclusion

Ignoring farmer demands, how can we find a solution to the problem if we continue to not even recognise the problem and simply ignore it? So Modi should directly listen to their Man-Ki-Bath instead of depending on someone else and I personally believe that problem will be solved once Modi sit with farmers for high tea.


Story images by Hari Om Sharma 

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