A year of farm laws later, there is no resolution for the protesting farmers, writes ALI Chougule

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September 27 marked a year of enactment of the three agricultural laws, with the agricultural bills receiving Presidential assent and notified in the Indian Gazette and becoming agricultural laws. To mark a year since their adoption, farmers’ organizations called a Bharat bandh on Monday. The Three Laws – Agricultural Trade and Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020; Essential Products (Amendment) Act 2020; and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 – farmers fear undermining existing agricultural markets, resulting in the abolition of the government guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP) on certain crops and to leave them to the pity of large private companies. The government, on the other hand, maintains that the laws will give farmers more options to sell their produce, lead to better prices and free them from unfair trading practices and monopolies.

The farmers’ protest has continued for more than ten months, with several hundred farmers protesting at the Delhi borders to voice their disagreement against agricultural laws. They demanded that the government repeal the laws and make the MSP a legal right. But the government rejected both demands and it appears that there is no solution to the stalemate between the farmers and the government, as multiple attempts to settle the disputes have yielded no results.

The dead end continues

So far, 11 rounds of talks have taken place between the government and Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of more than 32 farmers’ unions. The last round of talks took place on January 22. However, no progress has been made. Since then, there has been a stalemate, with farmer groups demanding a full return of the laws, rejecting the Centre’s offer to suspend their implementation for two years.

Farmers have said they are ready to talk to the government if the Center invites them. However, they maintained that there was no change in their requests. There is also no progress on the report of the Supreme Court appointed committee (SC) submitted to the court, which has not yet been made public.

It is important to mention here that while suspending the laws, the SC had, on January 12, appointed an expert committee, composed of four members – Anil Ghanwat, chairman of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Pramod Joshi, agricultural economist and former director for South Asia at the International Food Policy Research Institute, agricultural economist Ashok Gulati and All India Kisan coordinator Bhupinder Singh Mann. Two days after the committee was formed, Mann recused himself, saying his interest was in the farmers. However, the farmers’ unions rejected the court-appointed committee and accused its members of having a defined agenda in favor of the laws.

SC group report

In March 2021, the committee submitted its report to the tribunal. But six months later, the court has neither made it public nor issued an order based on it. On September 1, Ghanwat wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India, urging the court’s highest authority to release the report prepared by the committee. In his letter, Ghanwat noted that the court paid no attention to the report which, he wrote, “dealt with all the concerns of the farmers” and saw it as a way for the protesting farmers to achieve a solution.

“As a member of the committee, representing in particular the farming community, I am saddened that the issues raised by the farmers have not yet been resolved and the unrest continues,” Ghanwat wrote in his letter to the court. Joshi, another member of the committee, also reportedly asked why the court had not yet released the report.

Oddly enough, the SC has also not heard the case since it suspended law enforcement in January, nor has it set a date to hear the case in the near future. There are reports that some farmers’ organizations have also written to Chief Justice NV Ramana and asked him to resume hearings on this case. While the government has repeatedly urged farmers to put off protest and expressed willingness to discuss their demands, farmers have stuck to their main demands – all three farm laws should be repealed and a new law should be repealed. be promulgated to ensure MSP for crops. .

Farmers’ fears

They fear that laws that open up agricultural markets to private companies will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and dismantle the MSP regime. However, the government refused to repeal the laws and rejected their demand to make the MSP a legal right, while accusing the farmers of continuing their agitation despite the Centre’s efforts and willingness to discuss the matter.

Since the promulgation of three agricultural laws on June 5 and their adoption in the Lok Sabha (September 17) and the Rajya Sabha (September 20), followed by the assent of the president a week later, the peasant unrest, after demonstrations sporadic nationwide, moved to Delhi’s borders on November 26. Since then, thousands of farmers have camped outside Delhi to demand the repeal of the laws. Overall, the protests have been peaceful, with the exception of the violence seen during the rally of farmers’ tractors in Delhi on January 26.

Now, as the stalemate continues in the absence of government-farmer discussions and no hearing on the matter, what awaits restless farmers? While after ten months of unrest, it seems that farmers are committed to the long term and show no sign of slackening their demands, it is highly likely that farmers’ fatigue is worsening and the lack of dialogue with the government will lead to unrest. in their ranks unless the impasse with the government is broken or the SC decides to intervene.

Given the government’s strong stance on the laws, farmers have no choice but to keep the momentum going and keep the momentum going by innovating in their campaign. This probably explains why the agricultural unions are now focused on the next parliamentary elections in early 2022 and want to campaign in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand and hope to harm the BJP on the electoral front. While farm leaders see their election turmoil as a way for them to keep the momentum of protest high, it remains to be seen how successful they will be.

The writer is a senior freelance journalist based in Mumbai

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Posted on: Tuesday, September 28, 2021, 2:30 a.m. IST


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