Farmers become the torch bearers of protests in India

Agriculture Capstone

Farmers breeze through the cold waves of winter and set ablaze their protest.

DELHI: India has become the stronghold of protests in recent years. The anti-CAA protests in 2019-2020 saw many parts of the nation coming together with masses speaking out their anger against the newly introduced Citizenship Act at that time. The Muslim community was excluded under the act, as it had sought to bring only Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Budh, and Jain into its shelter from the three neighboring Islamic countries, claiming that they were the ones facing religious persecution. The majority of the people were anguished at this and it sparked a chain of events one after the other, Shaheen Bagh still rings in the minds of the people while remembering the then demonstration.

That same light of the protest still glows strong with the farmers taking their due place at the Delhi borders, the main sites being Singhu and Tikri. The government at the time of the Coronavirus Pandemic, introduced three new farm laws which would change the way agriculture business be conducted in the country. It was passed by the parliament of India in September 2020. President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bills on the 27th of the same month. Following which, the ignition of protests was initiated by the farmer unions and organisations to dissent against the Centre’s decision and express their discontent with the reforms. At first, Punjab and Haryana were the two major participants in these protests. They had started sit-ins at various toll plazas and reliance owned pumps back in their own states. This fuel added to the fire slowly but surely, as the Pan-India farm organizations comprising of 500+ bodies came under one banner by the name of ‘Samyukta Kissan Morcha’ and kick-started a campaign “Chalo Dilli” (to reach the national capital and put pressure on the central government to scrap the three farm laws). On the 26th of November, 2020, thousands of tractor trolleys marched from different states through the Haryana Border to Delhi.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act. Lawyers and experts suggest that the implementation of these laws would bring more corporate players into the farming business and it will privatize the whole sector in the coming times. Arvinder Singh Gill, an Advocate says, “All the three laws are rightly termed “black laws” by the farmers since they are not in their benefit at all, amendment to Essential Commodities Act will uncap the limit to store food, grain and anyone can buy the most amount and sell it according to their own wishes and agreements. The APMC Mandis will vanish and contract farming would push the farmers to the brink of selling their lands.”

A farmer working in his field at Machiwara. | CREDIT: Author

While those farmers who were at the border openly criticized the government and talked about their protest and why they had come from different parts of the nation. A farmer of the U.P says that “We have got ration for more than six months and won’t go anywhere even if it takes one year.” While Amar Singh, a farmer from Etawah mentions the failures of this government in terms of demonetization, GST, and all the lies it has fed to the people over these years and this is nothing but the same thing, lies. Many of them have covered long distances away from their homes to live in harsh conditions, cold winter breeze, open living, etc. But they say it won’t stop them from protesting.

One of the many reasons behind such a large scale agitation and unity amongst the farmers was the fact that they feared their livelihood was at stake and if they didn’t act then against these laws and demand for its repulsion, they might as well hold their silence, forever. The movement wasn’t just connected with the farmers, everyone was involved in it even those who didn’t have an agricultural background.

The state wise APMC system which is functioning well both in Haryana and Punjab with the help of “Mandis” and the govt’s assurance of MSP makes them one of the highest earning states in terms of agriculture. Farmers fear the new laws would eliminate both of these things and they will be left out in the open for the bigger companies like ‘Adanis’ and ‘Ambanis’ to exploit them and take away their lands. 

Tejinder Singh Rajewal, APMC Committee member, BKU (Rajewal) states that the concept of “One Nation, One Market” doesn’t apply here since the farmers of their state are already earning good in terms of profit. He further questions, why the government is so arrogant in enforcing these laws? We have our Mandis where the farmers sell the crops and they have built this good relationship with the Arthiyas who are like an ‘ATM’ for them in the need of the hour. APMCs have licenses under them and traders need to go through each in order to purchase and strike a deal. The new parallel Mandi won’t have any authority watching over it. It is like ‘death’ to the farmers if they back down today.

Even after six months of protests going on, the farmers continue to express their anger and discontent against the three ‘black laws’. They say, “As long as it takes for the new dawn to come, the night of struggle shall continue.”


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