Not only did the Modi government not pay any heed to the demands raised by the massive Kisan Mukti March of November 2018, it in fact, went on to surreptitiously promulgate three ordinances, in June this year, that go directly against everything that the farmers want. Indeed, they seek to hand over agriculture to the corporate sector – which will effectively mean destruction for a large mass of farmers. Naturally they are up in arms in what is perhaps the most determined struggle of the last four decades. The protests have been going on in many states since September 2020 and have reached the capital only now.
The three ordinances – now laws – that are currently pushing farmers into a ‘do or die’ struggle in different parts of the country, have been widely written about and their different dimensions explained (for instance, here, here and here). We will therefore not go into their analysis in this article. The ordinances are: (i) Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, (ii) The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, and (iii) The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. Farmers’ organizations opposing the ordinances claim that they have been very misleadingly named so as to give the impression that they empower the farmers; they suggest the ordinances might be more accurately renamed the “APMC Bypass Bill”, “Contract Farming Promotion Bill” and the “Food Hoarding by Corporates Bill” respectively.
The long and short of these ordinances is quite nicely summed up in these suggested names – for what the three together aim to achieve is the dismantling of state procurement (though on paper it may continue to remain), and thereby open agriculture to contract farming for big corporations, allowing them to corner essential food commodities in as large quantities as they want. The entire attempt, it is not hard to see, is to open out the agriculture sector to giant retail chains like Reliance – which is why it is necessary to remove the limits on purchase and storage of essential commodities.
Contract farming, already happening informally at individual levels, once it is made the norm, is certainly going to seriously compromise food security for all. For if an agribusiness firm eyeing quick and massive profits wants farmers to change from essential food production to some other crop, it will decide what will be produced. And of course, what gets you quick profits is not what is sold as essential food item in the domestic or local market but it could be anything from potatoes for chips to maize to manufacture ‘alternative fuel’ for US consumers. So entire cropping patterns can change, endangering our food sovereignty as a people.
The farmers, in a word, are not just fighting a battle for their own survival but one where the survival of all of us is at stake. If the design visualized in the three ordinances comes to pass, it will also lead to the complete destruction of lakhs of people who earn their livelihoods by selling fruit and vegetables – for those too will be produced by farmers under contract farming with corporations which will sell them at their retail stores. Prices for millions of consumers too will then be determined by these giant retail chains.
But these issues have only come up now. Why have the farmers/ peasants been agitating for the last couple of years?
Rewind to November 2018 Continue reading The Farmers’ Struggle and the Agrarian Crisis