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Trending: Call for Papers Volume 3 | Issue 2: International Journal of Advanced Legal Research [ISSN: 2582-7340]

“Farmer’s India — Kisan Ka Maan – Desh Ka Samman, Khet Se Khane Ki Thaali Tak.”

INTRODUCTION

The above slogan was first heard at the start of the Modi regime. So, on May 26’2019, when the Central government celebrates its power, one ministry — “the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers” — will be in focus. The reason: Its tagline — “Farmer’s India — Kisan Ka Maan – Desh Ka Samman, Khet use Khane ki Thaali Tak.” Through this article, I will like to draw light to the condition of farmers in the Modi regime.

From 2014, the Bhartiya Janta Party has been pushed into damage control mode over the agricultural crisis in the country, in the previous year i.e. 2019, after suffering electoral losses and constant protests.
One of the major challenges that the Modi government faced was tackling agrarian[1] distress in the face of slack markets, flawed import and export policies, and demonetization [2]. That is why, since then farmers are being engaged in constant protest. Bhartiya Janta Party’s election manifesto “Sankalp Patra Lok Sabha 2019” gives a major push on rural development and addressing farmer issues, apparently in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to double farm incomes by 2022.

In 2019, five key things that Bhartiye Janta Party had promised to its farm and rural voters are as follows:-
1. Massive investment boost for rural development: The Bhartiye Janta Party has said in its manifesto that it would invest Rs 25 lakh crore in rural development to improve the productivity of the farm sector.
2. PM-KISAN for all farmers, pension support to many: The Bhartiye Janta Party said that it would provide pension to the marginal farmers after the age of 60 years to ensure social security. In its manifesto, it said it would work towards ensuring that maximum farmers get income support under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana — PM-KISAN, which promises a Rs 6,000 income support for small farmers. The Bhartiye Janta Party said that the PM Kisan scheme would be extended to all the farmers and they would get Rs 6,000 as part of the income support. The central government has so far transferred Rs 5,215 crore to over 2.6 crore small and marginal farmers under the PM-Kisan scheme, which it had announced in the interim budget. It had made a provision of Rs 75,000 crore for the PM Kisan scheme.
3. Pension for small shopkeepers: In a bid to give social security to small traders, the Bhartiye Janta Party has said it would give pensions to the small shopkeepers after 60 years of age. The ruling party also said there would make an effective Rashtriya Vyaapar Aayog.
4. Interest-free loans for farmers: The Bhartiye Janta Party has said there would not be any interest on short term new farm loans for up to Rs 1 lakh for five years on the condition of prompt payment of the principal amount.
5. Modi’s vision to double farm incomes stays: The Bhartiye Janta Party has set a target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 in its manifesto for 2019. It will also enable the formation of 10,000 new farmer producer organisation.

FARM ACT 2020:-

The Indian Farm Reforms of 2020 refer to three agricultural bills passed by the Parliament of India on 27 September 2020. The bills collectively seek to provide farmers with multiple marketing channels and provide a legal framework for farmers to enter into pre-arranged contracts among other things. The three laws are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, which came into effect following the approval of President Ram Nath Kovind

Protests against the acts picked up in September 2020, particularly in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, where farmers have been at the forefront.
The act is further explained as follows:-
1. Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020

  • Expands the scope of trade areas of farmers’ produce from select areas to “any place of production, collection, aggregation”.
  • Allows electronic trading and e-commerce of scheduled farmers’ produce. 
  • Prohibits state governments from levying any market fee on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for the trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’. 

2. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020

  • provides a legal framework for farmers to enter into pre-arranged contracts with buyers including mention of pricing.
  • defines a dispute resolution mechanism. 

3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020

  • removes foodstuff such as cereals, pulses, potato, onions, edible oilseeds and oils, from the list of essential commodities, removing stockholding limits on such items except under “extraordinary circumstances”
  • Requires that imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce be based on price rise. 

FARMERS’ REACTION 

“Actually, this seemingly odd finding holds the key to understanding the mood of the Indian farmers captured in some survey. Farmers who are relatively better off are also more unhappy about their lot, more anxious about their future, and angrier about the latest farm acts passed by the Modi government. Farmers across India have a sense that something big and possibly bad is on the way, something they don’t fully comprehend. They also know that farmers are angry and protesting in many parts of the country. But their own response varies. Farmers in the Northwest are angry, those in the West are anxious, those in the south are unsure, those in the East are placid and their counterparts in UP and Bihar are oblivious to everything.

The farmers’ level of awareness about the laws and farmers’ protests surprise us. As many as two-thirds of the farmers (as many as 91 percent in Punjab and Haryana) know that farmers are protesting in the country. When asked why nearly half of them can say that they are protesting against the new farm laws. Quite impressive, I thought. Even more impressive is that two-thirds have heard about the new farm laws (82 percent in Northwest, but only 48 percent in the East), even though the awareness of each of the laws is much lower and most of them may not be able to say what these laws are about. Interestingly, WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube contribute about as much to the farmers’ awareness as TV or newspapers.

The bad news for the government is that the farm laws are getting a bad name among the farmers. When asked whether they are in favor or against these laws, the verdict is negative: 52 percent against and 35 percent in favor. To be sure, more than half of the defenders and opponents don’t really know the details of these laws. And, as expected, the responses are uneven across geographical and class divides. Yet, this general negative impression is what matters in politics.

The surveys show that the farmers’ reservations against these laws are driven by three real anxieties. One, they fear that the existing mandi system may be dismantled. Nationally, about 39 percent of farmers share this anxiety, while 28 percent don’t, and one-third don’t have an opinion on it. Two, about the same proportion of farmers, fear that the government system of procurement of some crops at a minimum support price (MSP) will come to an end. Three, there is a stronger fear (46 percent yes to 23 percent no) that these laws will open the way for exploitation of the farmers by big companies. All the three fears are likely to be accentuated as the Congress governments begin enacting state laws against these central laws. These state legislation may never come into force because the President is unlikely to assent, but these can play a major role in shaping public opinion.

The surveys underline one undisputed aspiration and demand of the farmers: guaranteed MSP for farm produce. When asked whether MSP should be mandated by law, the response is a resounding yes: 59 percent of farmers vote for it while 16 percent are against it. Obviously, the support is higher (81 percent in the Northeast, 80 percent in the West) in areas that have a functioning system of procurement and among those farmers who sell their crops for MSP. But the votaries of MSP outnumber the skeptics even among farmers and regions that don’t currently benefit from government procurement. No wonder, BJP leaders find it very hard to respond to farmers on this specific demand. Their task is harder after the laws passed by the Punjab assembly.

The bad news for the opposition is that despite clear and growing resentment against these three laws, the Modi government is still not seen to be “anti-farmer”. Those who say so are 28 percent, against 44 percent who still think it is “pro-farmer”. The only exception is, again, Haryana and Punjab. But when the same question was framed differently, there was a subtle shift. When farmers were asked to name the group the Modi government cares most for, 35 percent said it cared most for the farmers, while 45 percent said the Modi government cares most for the traders, corporates, and MNCs. Another wave of farmers’ movement and the Modi government could well earn the tag of being “anti-farmer”

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), the largest coalition of farmer organizations in the country, has given a call for “Dilli Chalo” on 26 and 27 November. Before this street-battle takes place, the next one month will witness a battle for farmers’ minds.

The government and a section of the media would live in denial if they see and present it as a rebellion of the entitled. The opposition and farm activists would indulge in a wishful fancy if they interpret it as a revolution of the enlightened vanguard. As of now, it is no more, and no less, than an outcry of the, enabled, of those who have what it takes to stand up and speak up. Such an outcry tends to percolate. If so, the Modi government is on a losing wicket.”

[1] Relating to cultivated land or the cultivation of land.
[2] On 8 November 2016, the Government of India announced the demonetisation of all ₹500 and ₹1,000 banknotes. It also announced the issuance of new ₹500 and ₹2,000 banknotes in exchange for the demonetised banknotes.
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Author: Niharika Sahai

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