Monday, May 29, 2023

A Bharat Bandh economy shutdown for farmers

How does a Bharat Bandh on December 8, 2020 help farmers? How does bringing the wheels of economy to a grinding halt help the farmers’ cause?

Is there no other way available for the farmers to exert pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government to come out with a better deal?

We urgently need a better political invention, suited to modern times, to replace this communist weapon for pressurising the government in power to do what it should not do.

Bharat Bandh is a political statement that may or may not help political parties in opposition. But it surely never benefits the common man. In fact, by hurting the economy, it is ultimately going to hurt the common man, and farmers themselves, in this case.

Yet, the farmers have given a Bharat Bandh call and are trying to ensure that it is a big success with the help of the political parties.

Ridiculous it may sound, but this perfectly sums up the political and social milieu and situation obtaining in India right now. We are misled to tread a path which ultimately is detrimental to our own future.

How do you deal with a child adamant on not drinking milk just because his friend has told him that milk causes loss of hair?

You negotiate with him, try to reason with him and tell him that he is misinformed and his apprehensions are misplaced. You try to tell him how devious and wrong the suggestions, and politics, of his friend may be in keeping him misinformed.

And what if he still does not relent?

If he still does not relent, you will have very few options. It is your child, after all. The loss and suffering, any which way, would be yours. So, you need to tread with caution.

This example pretty much sums up the dilemma of the union government. Despite its best efforts, the farmers have refused to budge on the farm laws issue. Although the government negotiators have indicated that the government may address their specific concerns by either watering down some of the provisions or by delaying the implementation of some of those which are causing concern, this has not led to any reconciliatory gesture from the farmers’ side.

The stance of the agitating farmers has not been very accommodating. Backed by the opposition parties, they have even called for a Bharat Bandh on December 8, 2020.

It would be interesting to see what issues the farmers bring to the negotiating table on December 9, 2020, when the negotiations start afresh after the success, or failure, of the nationwide bandh.

Keeping everything in mind, it can be safe to conclude that the new farm laws, for the most part, are in the greater interest of the farmers themselves.

As Town Post has pointed out earlier too, the arguments advanced by the opposition parties and the agitating farmers, do not seem to hold water. The new farm laws are not ending the APMC Mandis. The Mandis will still operate and the MSP too is going to remain in place. What the new laws do is to provide an additional freedom to the farmers to sell their produce elsewhere if, and only if, they are getting a better price outside.

No less than a Standing Committee on Agriculture, headed by the then Union Minister Hukumdev Narayan Yadav, had pointed out way back in 2018-19 in its 62nd Report that the APMC market allows limited number of traders and it leads to reduction in competition, cartelization and too much deduction in the name of market fee and commission charges etc.

It is rather puzzling to see farmers supporting restriction of their own freedom to go beyond APMC Mandis to get better price. Why should farmers support cartels that limit freedom to sell at higher prices without paying any market fee or commission to the middlers?

The opposition parties have pointed out that this may lead to government ending the MSP system and that in future, it may stop buying from the farmers. This concern too is misplaced. First, the government has repeatedly said that MSP system as well as APMC Mandis are here to stay. The farm bills will only provide additional freedom to the farmers to sell their produce to others, even outside the Mandis.

Anyway, MSP system will remain in vogue till the government continues to procure food-grains, mainly rice and wheat, and also essentials like palm oil, pulses, sugar and kerosene, through the ration shops.

The MSP serves as only a baseline for a crop’s price so that the government can use it as a handle to ensure that the farmers do not have to suffer in case the prices fall too much.

If this MSP and APMC Mandis co-exist with the freedom to sell outside their limits at higher prices, this would provide the farmers the best of both worlds. A minimum price guarantee as well as the freedom to get maximum price even outside the APMC Mandis.

It goes to the credit of the opposition parties that they have been able to persuade the farmers to oppose the farm laws, which are actually in the interest of the farmers. The opposition parties, surely, have better communication and persuasion skills.

It is really a failure of the union government that it has been unable to take the farmers into confidence on the issue of reforms through farm laws and has not succeeded in removing their apprehensions. It, surely, can field better negotiators and communicators to persuade the farmers to not go against their own self-interest.

Related Posts

Feel like reacting? Express your views here!

Town Post