The farmers’ struggle at the Delhi borders completed six months yesterday, the 26th of May. The day was observed as a Black Day all over the country, at the call of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).
Braving unprecedented cold, followed by rains and storm, the struggle has now moved into the cruelest part of Delhi’s summer. In the process, it has lost 470 of its people, thanks to the obstinacy of the government. If one dates the beginning of the struggle from June, when it began in Punjab, soon after the farm laws were stealthily, under cover of the pandemic, promulgated as ordinances by the Central government, the struggle has been on for ten months now. In other words, it is incorrect to go on referring to it as a protest – which we routinely do for many lost causes – for it is now a ‘do or die’ struggle. It became so from the time it shifted its venue to lay siege to Delhi.
Periodically, the government, its police and its minions in the media try and zero in on this epic struggle of the farmers for its ignoring, if not violating of Covid19 protocols. All this even as they look the other way while lakhs of people are thrown into the jaws of death, brought about by the mass murderers who have pushed populations in four states into prolonged election campaigns, played cynical games with precious oxygen and vaccine supplies and allowed all kinds of mass religious gatherings of the Hindus to take place in complete disregard of any protocol whatsoever.
Today is the last day of the dreadful year that 2020 was – not only because of the pandemic but it has been a year full of the most vicious attacks on dissent and protests. It has also seen wanton arrests of those who raised their voices against the myriad injustices of this regime. The year that began with the epic struggle against the CAA-NRC ends while another epic struggle – that of the farmers – is going on. This post is dedicated to them and to the future of the farmers in struggle.
In the video above, Narayana Reddy, a farmer talks about farming. Having run away from home at a young age and worked as a cleaner earning Rs 40 a month, Reddy gradually got better jobs and saved some money with which he bought land for farming. Listen to his brief account here and you will realize that this charismatic and much celebrated farmer started off farming exactly the way it was understood in those days – that is to say, with standard ‘Green Revolution’ techniques. In five to six years, Narayana Reddy tells us, he became a spectacularly successful model farmer but something was amiss. Despite high yields, I was continuously losing money, he says. The story, with minor variations, was the same as that of Green Revolution farmers in Punjab: a few years of prosperity, accompanied by huge losses due to rising input costs (tractors, fuel, fertilizers, high-yielding variety seeds, pesticides, electricity run pumps), and rapidly deteriorating soil quality, depleting water table, disappearing of locally suitable crops.
There was no historical destiny or necessity in all this. Major US foundations like Ford and Rockefeller Foundations were involved in pushing this new way of doing ‘industrial’ agriculture developed by Norman Borlaug. I am not suggesting that this was a conspiracy but it was certainly something that took away control from the hands of the peasants and in the name of modernizing agriculture, made them dependent on big corporations (backed by the state) who were lurking behind this innocent-sounding rhetoric of increased productivity and prosperity. With the new farm laws, we are currently facing a fresh round of attacks on the autonomy and livelihooods of the farmers – and this time the government can’t pretend to any innocence in this regard.
So let us ask an elementary question: Why do people work and produce? The answer obviously is because they want to live well and live better in this world, here and now.
हाल ही में मोदी सरकार ने हिंदी, अंग्रेजी एवं पंजाबी में 106 पन्नों की एक किताब कृषि क़ानूनों के पक्ष में निकाली है. मोदी ने यह भी कहा है कि किसान आन्दोलन जारी रखने से पहले इस को ज़रूर पढ़ें. मोदी की बात मान कर हम ने इस को पढ़ा. सब से पहले तो यह देख कर धक्का लगा कि 106 पन्नों की किताब में नए कृषि क़ानूनों वाले अध्याय में मात्र 28 पृष्ठ हैं और इन 28 पन्नों में भी मोदी के भाषणों, मोदी सरकार के कृषि कार्यों और मोदी द्वारा गुजरात में किये कामों का विवरण शामिल है. इस लिए इन 28 पन्नों में भी सीधे सीधे नए कृषि क़ानूनों पर तो मात्र 13 पेज हैं. इस में भी बहुत दोहराव है, एक ही बात को बार बार कहा गया है. शेष पुस्तिका तो मोदी सरकार द्वारा किसानों के हित में किये गए कामों के दावों पर ही केन्द्रित है. यहाँ हम मोदी द्वारा गुजरात और केंद्र में कृषि और किसानों के लिए किये गए सारे दावों की पड़ताल करने की बजाय नए क़ानूनों के पक्ष में किये गए दावों की ही पड़ताल करेंगे. (यहाँ पर कई स्थानों पर दो तरह के पृष्ठ नंबर दिए गए हैं. पहले पीडीएफ फ़ाइल के और फिर छपी हुई पुस्तिका के; अगर एक पृष्ठ नंबर है तो वो पीडीएफ का है). इन का संक्षिप्त विवरण इस प्रकार है.Continue reading कृषि क़ानूनों पर नयी सरकारी किताब में बड़े बड़े दावों के अलावा सफ़ेद झूठ भी : राजिंदर चौधरी→
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?