Protests by farmers & their middlemen

The Protests in the name of Farmers

There is no doubt in the intent of PM Modi in bringing the farm Reform Acts for their betterment. However, the ministers in Modi Govt have become experts in inept handling. They demonstrate to the democracies in the world as to ‘How not to bring in a reform’. In what the farmers should have hailed the acts as the biggest reform, the incompetent minister(s) have agitated a section of them to unprecedented protests and also permitted the anti-India forces internationally to exploit the situation.

The three farms bills were introduced in the Corona-curtailed parliament session of India. It was passed in such a way that will serve an example to the coming generations as ‘how not to bring in the best of the reforms’. During the debates on the bills, the most who watched the proceedings live, felt that those bills will surely usher-in a new era for the agriculture in India, with the long awaited reforms. Besides some of the misgivings on contract farming that could have been clarified in the bills itself, three main concerns of the opposition members seemed to be genuine as below, that could have been redressed: -

  • Will the online provisions make the big buyers / corporates to purchase below MSP?
  • Will the small farmers inconversant with online/e-market be able to benefit?
  • Will the local Mandis cease to exist?

Most of us failed to understand as to why the Agriculture Minister did not heed to rectify the above concerns as the farmers had already started their agitations when the bills were introduced. The writings were on the wall that the hawkish middlemen in procurements will not take the reforms lying down. Their highly profiting business from the mandis will go down. They have hegemony in the Mandis. The large-scale farmers and the middlemen thrive on the produce of the small and middle farmers. They don’t let the small farmers’ produce even reach the Mandis. The small and mid level farmers seldom get the MSP for their produce. There could not have been a better indicator of the ‘problems in offing’ than Ms Harsimrat Kaur resigning from the cabinet of the ministers. Badals have huge clout among the rich and influential farmers of Punjab. There were rumbling in the Haryana govt too. However, the Agriculture minister as well as the parliamentary affairs ministers failed to read those warning signs. They rushed through the bills as a mark of arrogance and made it acts. In Punjab & Haryana where the Food Corporation of India (FCI) purchases 80% of the produce through the mandis, numerous middlemen operate. They either take commission or buy the small farmer’s produce at prices much lower than the MSP to sell it in the mandi at substantial profits. Those poor farmers have no option but to submit to the lobbies of the middlemen and the rich farmers who rule the mandis.

No sooner the Farm bills became the acts of law; the middlemen of Punjab & Haryana saw their hegemony on mandi disappearing overnight. They perceived themselves becoming irrelevant if the small farmers could sell their products online, at even higher prices. Congress party and Akali Dal has substantial presence among the rich farmers (incl Badal family) and the influential middlemen. They found it opportune to start with the dis-information campaign…to spread words among the mostly illiterate farmers that contract farmers will lose their lands to the big corporate houses. The propaganda was launched that small farmers will not be able to sell their produce…that Adanis & Ambanis will grab the markets…that the farmers will have to sell their produce below MSP…that rent/lease farmers will lose their lands…that the mandis will close and all middlemen and marketers will lose their jobs. Actually the opposition politicians exploited the touts and middlemen of the mandis with so much of the unfounded rumours about the new acts that they immediately started with widespread protests. Congress party mobilised their cadres mong the farmers to protest. In Punjab, they paralysed the railway service for over a month. Their supporters joined the protest march, mainly led by the middlemen and rich farmers of Punjab & Haryana. Congress ruled state govts have enacted laws annulling the Farm acts, yet they have joined the protests. It is strongly felt that the nation is facing the crisis because of the arrogance and lack of tactfulness among some of the Modi ministers who are basically incompetent in running a democratic and coalition govt.

One wonders if the protesters are really farmers. They have brought their cars, SUVs, Lorries, Tractors with loads of provisions and supplies for months. They also have tents, portable Generator sets, room heaters, electrically heated blankets, washing machines, TVs, foot massagers, Gym, free Tatoos and so on…for their comforts. They even have solar panels mounted atop the trucks. They are supported by some of the gurudwaras to cook and feed the people. Some ill-known group from Britain has set-up a free kitchen. There are splurge of liquor & spirits too. Some Muslim groups were also observed distributing the food in return for the support they had from the Sikhs during their Shaheenbagh protests. One is compelled to think as if the two protests have some semblance.

Some Khalistanis too have tried to hijack the protest march as one could see their flags in the protest, their leader among protesters. Khalistani supporters of the Dalaals / farmers were seen in some countries abroad… outside Indian embassies in Canada, Britain, US etc. Among them were also their Pakistani handlers. Some of the known Shaheenbaghi characters too tried to join the protest. Even Jamia Milia Islamia students tried their entry but some sane voices amidst the farmers did not allow. There were some representatives of the Urban Naxals, Maoists, anti-nationals, Delhi Communal Rioteers. The Communist party Kisan cadres with their red flags were already among the protesters. One could observe their posters asking the govt to free the urban Naxals, Maoists, Delhi rioters etc jailed for various crimes. Amidst all those shady characters, there are some real farmers as well…mostly rich, some medium level too. They have been made the scapegoats in the unruly protest and war of political ego. Some actual farmers having allegiance to Congress and Communists have also joined the protests on the instructions of their political masters in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.

The farmers have moved ahead with their protest march to Delhi. There is near anarchy in the periphery of Delhi and Haryana roads where the protesters have gathered and established themselves for a long-haul. The Corona norms are being flouted rampantly. Several farmer’s unions have joined the protest and numerous agendas have been added in to their demands many of which are unrelated to the Farms acts. Many among the protesters are not the farmers. There are unscrupulous, anti-social elements, rowdies and so on. They have been misbihaving with women reporters. Meanwhile, the innocent, voiceless small & mid-size farmers of Punjab and Haryana are busy working in their fields. The influential lots who are protesting, are against the interests of the small farmers, don’t want them get their due. The Dalaals don’t want their share of commission to be reduced through the Farm Acts. Hence, they want nothing less that the repeal of the acts.

Meanwhile, several Kisan Unions have separated themselves from the protest and extended their supports to the Farms Acts. Having understood the acts, they feel it will open the scope for the farmers to have alternate markets. These farmer unions are from states other than Punjab and Haryana where FCI purchases in the mandis at the MSP are minimal. However, they will be happy if the govt can ensure a ‘minima’ of the MSP rates which the govt is ready to ensure. In one of the field level survey of the actual mid and lower level farmers of 22 states carried out by CNN News18 TV channel, it shows that majority of the farmers are in the support of the Farms Acts. They feel it is beneficial to them and will surely increase their income. They trust every word said by PM Modi.

Aat the Delhi border, the protesters are trying to choke all approach roads …whether from Haryana, Rajasthan or UP side. Protesters have blocked Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur and Chilla access roads to Delhi. Chilla-Noida was vacated by the UP protesters on 12 Dec 20 who have withdrawn their support to the agitation. On 13 Dec, several farmer unions of Haryana and Uttarakhand have announced their support to the Farm Acts. They feel it is good and to their benefit. They all will be happy if the MSP as ‘minima’ is ensured.

The losses to the Dalaals thru’ the Farm Acts are huge, running in crores of rupees to each of them. If the Farm acts are put in to effect, all these profits will go to the actual farmers and this is what the middlemen don’t want. The ‘dalaali’ benefit goes both to the actual middlemen as well as to the rich farmers who rule the mandis. No farmer can sell their produce without the nod from the rich & dalaals. This is why all big farming names of Punjab have joined the protest…be it Badals, Amrinder Singhs or the others. They are stinking rich, came prepared with their tractors, trucks, lorries, costly cars and so on. They have also compelled some of the small farmers dependant on them to join the protest. Some farmers having strong allegiance to Congress and Communists were compelled by the party leadership. Despite all odds, it must be acknowledged that among the largely ‘dalaals and the rich farmers’ there are some small and medium farmers too who have been forced to participate. They don’t speak.

The saddest part of the current protest is that whether participating willingly or forced upon…they have been there for nearly a month now. They are braving the adversities of cold weather, Corona and so on. A few have died due to varied reasons, some committed suicide too. Who should compensate for their deaths? The Dalaals or the govt?

Having mentioned the unjust intent of the protest, it must be realised that all the protesters are our own nationals. Although the protest is at the behest of dalaals, rich and some opposition politicians, their concerns must be addressed. The middlemen have fears of losing their trades of ‘dalaali or commission’ amounting to crores of rupees. The govt may like to provide them some relief or alternatives of their livelihood. The farm acts are surely for the betterment of the farmers and for the upliftment of the farming sector. It must continue. The continuing protests are not in the interest of the nation. The protesters have to understand it and not make it a tussle of ego. The govt will have to find a middle path tactfully. These are the ills of a democracy that the nation has to suffer. It must be appreciated that the media has played their roles very justly and have brought out all aspects of the protest before the nation. PM Modi’s interaction with the farmer on 25 Dec has calmed many nerves. Opposition politicians will have to be sane in their approach too. They must not cross the red-line themselves. They have played their role in highlighting the shortcoming in the Farms Acts which the govt is ready to rectify. The protest must end.

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