Flowers or Thorns, it is one of the biggest scuffle and mental conflicts in the annals of history whether we need flowers or thorns? It is a tussle that occurred with varying degrees of barricaded institutionalization of the Central Government vs Farmers.
Thorns have sharpness that stings and stings very sharply- the elegant classes that retain the authenticity as Indians for the love of the current government. On the other hand are criticizers so they are not Indians, in the so-called Modi’s narration of Indianness that has cut the democratic and constitutional framework of equality.
But here let us talk of Farmers who sow the seeds of the fruits that we all eat. This very Farming community is braving the thorns of the architecture that their own chosen Government has sown for them in the form of multiple layers of barricades, pieces of marvel that will be written in the history books, for our children to read.
These barricades are the different layers of the life of farmers when we open one; the other is automatically opened showing its face. Retired Wing Commander S.S. Randhawa, says about it “A marvelous piece of architecture and requested the Kissan Andolan team not to harm this piece but to “preserve it as a monument of Political Insanity.”
It is one of the biggest moments of insanity drawn out of the current Government’s decorum regime to derail the agitators. Why the Government, which each one of us knows, it happened as some rigorous agitators went berserk in the Red Fort, showing their aggression unfurled the Sikh flag known as Nishan Sahib, but many fires are burning beneath these layers; economic, social, and political.
When the stick strikes on the stomach, people do land on the roads, asserting their rights which the wealthy had been dominating for long, bringing in itself value of the richness. The roads now that was regular domination of the rich and now empowered by the vast Agriculture community, after all, lives of the so subjugated class Farmers also matters.
The village life suddenly appeared as if from nowhere into the roads. We could see the beauty, love, and dedication of these villagers, “Seva bhav”. Several organizations appeared from nowhere to set up their tents and serve the farmers, Educated youths started their voluntary services of even shoe repair, villagers were seen helping each other, will full zeal and enthusiasm and vigor.
Like Ruhaniyat appeared from nowhere and settled at the borders. There were the machines for the old, there were machines for preparing chapattis, many with their self less zeal and dedication distributed Pizzas, Golgappas, and Dry fruits were also distributed free of cost, but in this environment of Ruhaniyat and serenity, there was gloominess and fear.
People from across the world appeared to witness the way the villagers especially from Punjab displayed intensity and vigor with the beauty of Punjab and that is of self-less service to the people, Manas Kee Jat, Ek Hi Pehchano”, a way of agitation which was hardly seen or witnessed anywhere.
With this, they had shown to the world that farmers feed, and despite all the troubles and shivering winters they never allow anyone go hungry.
But the 26th January incident overturned, the original charm replaced with the tough battle when water supply, medical facility and internet stopped and police laid several layers of the barricade with thorns. A scuffle between the goons and the police ensued that caused many injuries and few arrests.
All this time, several farmers died. Some suicide cases came to the notice, some succumbed to cold, while others died with heart attack, and some at the hands of the police and the goons. Even with so many troubles and turmoils, they are still stationed on the structured roads, narrating their story to the world, Farmers Lives Means.
But why this all happened, let us get at the roots of the issue.
The government passed the three acts in February:
Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance, Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 during its monsoon session culminating on 23rd September. The bills that received the President’s sign off on September 27, 2020, were passed amidst an uproar by opposition parties and simultaneously farmer groups. The government is saying these acts will give a boost to Agriculture and the farmers’ income will get doubled. But according to the farming community, these acts are contentious, black at the core. These contentious bills made the farmers stand their brows; agitation got spark in Punjab, extended to Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and other states.
Let me here take an example of Rice
Overall Indian rice market is segmented in basmati, non-basmati, packed, unpacked, and further segmented into its types. Basmati rice contributes a small portion in the Indian market but generates the highest share through the overall export of rice. The Rice sector is a competitive market in India; there are many vital players; also, they are getting fierce competition from the new entrants and the local players.
Indian overall and packaged rice markets have grown considerably over the past couple of years. India is among the largest producers and exporters of rice globally.
A vast section of people living in India belongs to Tier 2 and Tier 3, which is the largest consumer of unpacked rice that helps in driving the unorganized rice market in India. In the last few years, a shift towards urbanization has increased, and the size of the families got smaller, which allowed them to move towards the packed rice products.
Right now we take for example price of Basmati Creamy Sella Rice is INR 4950
The total cost of Rice comes to about 83663 Rs per hectare
A report from Reuter says that Government agencies bought 20.46 million tones of paddy rice during the start of the season at the last week of September and by the end of October, in contrast to 16.89 million tons in the same period earlier.
The Food procurement policy with an increase in MSP ensures they get better returns on paddy and wheat. Now when the act was passed on January 2021, the first big transaction took place between a large corporate entity and farmers since the promulgation of the amended APMC Act in Karnataka. Reliance Retail Ltd entered into a contract with the farmers to buy 1,000 quintals of Sona Masoori paddy from the farmers of Sindhanur taluk in Raichur district.
Reliance is offering Rs 1,950 per quintal of Sona Masoori, which amounts to Rs 82 that is more than the minimum support price (MSP) for the crop that is fixed by the government. But there were conditions in it, transport and packing cost was to be borne by the farmers. The farmers would transport all the crops in their stocking yards. Payment will only be made after quality testing of the crops. So what the farmers will gain or losses, is a matter of retrospection. But the question here is even if Reliance agrees to pay more than MSP, is it a profitable venture for farmers?
Now, what happened when the agitation started?
The pressure on the government was so intense that it extended the procurement date for paddy to distract the attention of the farmers. The attention was diverted towards procurement centers, especially in Punjab and Haryana. Procurement of other crops also started.
The government claimed that it procured more than 1.5 million tones (MT) of paddy from Punjab and Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. But during the last days of September and the first week of October, harvested paddy entered the markets in large numbers but very little was procured. Rice Millers and Arthiyas had gone on strike over the differences with the government on the procurement process. Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar announced the direct procurement of crops by procurement agencies and its transportation to the rice mills.
Another issue was the demand made by rice millers who wanted to reduce the quantity of rice that was milled from paddy. The millers wanted that the quantity should be reduced, that is from 67 kg per 100 kg to 63-64 kg. These issues created immense problems for farmers. On September 30th Farmers had to dump their crops at APMC yards as there were no buyers. The result was their crops began to rot. Under normal conditions, the crop should be sold within 24 hours.
As the procurement rule is changed, the issue of the moisture content is also raised, as the permitted limit of the moisture in paddy is 17 percent. In the previous years when rice mills would buy the crop, either the crop would get dried in the yards or sold with high moisture content with a price cut. Now in the current system of direct procurement government measures the moisture content level before the crops are allowed to get sold for the same. These things are coming to light when a government inspector denied the crops saying they had 22 percent moisture content. Farmers are left without any space to dry paddy or keep in check the moisture content.
In the online system too that is Meri Fasak Mera Byora (My Harvest My Details) scheme which needs registration of farmers and e –passes are issued does not allow farmers to bring the produce in Mandis. Another case came to light when the Haryana Government banned farmers of non-basmati paddy from Uttar Pradesh to sell their crops within the State. They were forced to sell at APMC mandis of Karnal and Kurukshetra as they do not get the assured MSP.
It was one thing that farmers should have been happy about? It directed officials to make sure that if a farmer had brought 10 percent extra Paddy to the mandi than the prescribed quota, it should be bought. The limit that was fixed earlier at 25 quintals per 0.4 hectares is now increased to 33 quintals.
Today I remember the classic Hindi movie, Do Bigha Zameen which appeared in 1953, it was a clear depiction of the plight of farmers. This film is a true depiction of how land is slowly snatched away from a farmer- that land which he considered as a mother, leaving him at the mercy of a moneylender who made the family pauper. Many movies were made after this, Mother India, yet another example on the subject of farmers, but the intensity and depth of these classic movies shook the whole world.
Now after so many years, Government’s tenacious privatization policies revived the memories of the old blockbuster tragedies that were rooted in farming.
But these people of land irrespective of getting thorns are now sending flowers to the world, forgotten behind the curtains of Bollywood, they themselves landed on these bureaucratic cemented roads trying to tell the world Farmers Lives Matters.