It is a time for rejoicing and celebration. It is a time for thanksgiving. For the victory of the farmers is not just theirs. Theirs was not just a struggle to protect their own livelihoods but also a valiant battle fought for all of us, so that we continue to get our food at affordable prices. It is a time for thanksgiving also because the movement has broken the hubris of an arrogant government that has absolutely no accountability whatsoever. It has given us some breathing space.
Even as this piece is being written, the victorious farmers camping at the Delhi borders for the last one year are preparing to leave for their homes. It has been a long haul for them in the course of which over 700 have died. It has been especially trying for the Punjab farmers who had started the stir months before they decided on their march to Delhi on 26 November 2020. Nobody had expected that the shifting of the venue to Delhi would end up being one long ordeal, continuing months on end, through the freezing winter, scorching Delhi heat and torrential rains. Not to mention an intransigent government that had already started the ground work for corporatization of agriculture and handing over parts of it to Adani and Ambani, even before the laws were formally promulgated.
Dr Jaya Mehta, economist and activist, has been associated with the Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies, author of many books who coordinated an all India study of the Agrarian Crisis delivered a special lecture on ‘Farm Laws, Farmer Protests and Agrarian Crisis’ on 27 th December 2020.
Abstract of talk :
The reforms in agricultural marketing contained in the three farm laws were first announced by the finance minister on 15th May 2020 as Prime Minister’s relief package for the people. When Covid and lock-down had created crisis in the entire economy, migrant workers were walking hundreds of kilometers to reach home and the majority of households desperately needed state support and protection, the Modi government chose to withdraw state intervention and deregulate market forces in agriculture to leave people in complete disarray. After the controversial monsoon session of parliament, the reforms to deregulate market became laws.
Till just the other day, they were committing suicide, while some of them were demonstrating in Jantar Mantar, Delhi, humiliating themselves by disrobing and eating rats, trying in vain to draw the attention of the political establishment to their plight. And to pour salt on their wounds, BJP leaders were saying that committing suicide had become a fashion among farmers! Today they are out on the streets, demanding, among other things, that their own debts be written off, not of the powerful and predatory capitalists. (See the Charter of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee below). This is, in all probability, the sign of a decisive shift, for today the charter relseased by the Coordination Committee declares loud and clear that
Farmers are not just a residue from our past; farmers, agriculture and village India are integral to the future of India and the world.