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Farm laws withdrawal: Who lost Modiji or Farmers?

The tragic part of this agitation and attitude of opposition parties is a matter of concern. Agitations are not new to Indian democracy and there is always a need to voice the opposition to government policies. — Anil Javalekar


Three farm laws have finally been repealed. Entire opposition celebrated the defeat of Modi Sarkar when Prim Minister Modiji himself declared the intention to withdraw the three farm laws. So called farmers unnecessarily stretched the issue and government showed patients and even decided to withdraw the three laws. It is good that government repealed the laws though the agitation had no base level arguments for repealing the same. The repeal will hopefully help the law-and-order agencies to maintain the order and public will get some relief from traffic jams. It is widely known and believed that the agitation was politically motivated and was not for farmers but against Modi Government. And knowing this, Modi Government decided to totally repeal the three laws, one was not even purely agriculture. This will be a research subject as to why Modi government surrendered and whether it was a pure political or otherwise decision. Whatever the outcome of research, Indian politics has sacrificed agriculture and particularly farmers in this case.  

Agriculture is at crossroad

Indian agriculture is at crossroad. The negative attitude of farmers from certain region towards the agriculture reforms and opposition’s attitude to oppose everything that government proposes will endanger Indian agriculture more. Recent NSS survey showed that the average income of farmer household from cultivation is less than Rs 4000/- per month and Poor Farmers are struggling for survival. Fragmentation of land making it more and more uneconomic. The monocropping systems, use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides are contaminating soil and water and increased mechanization as also use of energy are polluting air. Climate change will also increasingly impacting agriculture badly. In the circumstances agriculture reforms are necessary and avoidance will cost heavily in future. 

Divide is visible between Rich farmers and poor farmers 

The development of Indian agriculture has divided farmers in two groups -rich and poor. Rich farmers are mainly from Punjab, Haryana and west UP and becoming rich only with government support in the form of free or cheap or subsidized electricity, water, fertilizers, pesticides and above all because of increasing MSP. Against this, farmers from dryland areas are waiting for government support and not getting it. The subsidy amount is increasing day by day and government is unable to spend more on agriculture development. The increasing MSP and higher level of procurement has created the problem of storage apart from dividing farmers who gets the benefits and who are not getting it. Delayed reforms will increase the gap of poor and rich farmers. Therefore, it is not desirable to encourage rich area farmers to deny the reforms. The repeal of laws has precisely done that. 

Indian agriculture is at first stage of reforms 

Indian agriculture is a complex subject because of its small holdings and owners being small and marginal farmers. The land reforms took much time after independence. India faced food shortage in the beginning and government imported food grains to meet the requirements. Government implemented many programmes to increase the agriculture production particularly of wheat and rice and paid higher price in the form of MSP for procurement of available stock with farmers. Then came green revolution. The building of major dams on most rivers for irrigation purposes, introduction of hybrid seeds, making available subsidized fertilizers and pesticides, improving agriculture lending system with lower interest etc were all reforms that were undertaken. This was done with political will and by creating political awareness among the politicians and farmers apart from incentivizing farmers sufficiently. However, these reforms were also not easy. For example, the Punjab farmers were not ready to accept rice cultivation but with the MSP and procurement assurance, they started cultivating the rice. Now same farmers are not ready to give up rice cultivation and MSP. This type of farming creating the problems for agriculture as the water tables have gone down and use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are polluting the soil, water and air. The need is there to change the cropping pattern so to preserve the soil and water. But the farmers from the Punjab and Haryana etc are not accepting the changes. The reforms are necessary and will have to be implemented. It is better all concerns accept it before it is too late. 

Three laws were to take Agriculture reforms further 

It is important to understand the limitations of green revolution and its impact. True, India needed food grains to meet its food need and had to do more to become self sufficient. The practices adopted were mainly to increase the irrigated area, maximize the use of hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides apart other assuring of MSP and related procurements. The green revolution no doubt succeeded and helped India to increase the production and build the food grains stock more than requirement. This apart, the dry land remained out of this revolution. The revolution increased the production but not made farmer richer particularly dry land area farmers. In the rich areas also, Farmers could not benefit more as the middlemen and monopolized market system took away the benefits. Farmer remained isolated and indebted. This needed the agriculture market reforms and the farm laws intended to change the market system. 

Agriculture market reforms 

As is known, the supply chain world over is based on markets and markets are mostly operated and controlled by private sector. This system is considered fair and transparent and useful for large supply chain. India tried to break it by introducing the cooperation element in it but failed. Cooperatives through APMC system monopolized agriculture markets and served the interests not of farmers but of the lobbies that practically controlled these institutions. The new agriculture market reforms were intended to change the same with the introduction of private element in it. This is necessary as the green revolution and modernization of agriculture has increased the production and farmers are now educated and can benefits from new and expanding markets even online market systems. Therefore, the repealing of the three laws cannot be said as progressive step towards modernization of agriculture marketing system. 

Indian Politics is a matter of concern

The tragic part of this agitation and attitude of opposition parties is a matter of concern. Agitations are not new to Indian democracy and there is always a need to voice the opposition to government policies. However, there should be some logical arguments and justifiable base for demands. After BJP win in 2014 and formed government at center, this logic and base has lost the meaning and the agitations were simply with one agenda to oppose BJP government. This was the case while opposing CAA and the farm laws. There was no base argument for opposition and had it been there some solution by dialogue would have emerged. The demand was extreme to repeal the laws. Even now after repealing the laws agitation continues. This shows that the agitation was not in the interest of farmers but simply to oppose Government. This is the worst scenario and may endanger the democracy. More than anything, if message, of this agitation and the repeal of laws, is that the issues can be settled in streets, then the entire setup of Indian system of democracy, Government, parliament and judiciary will be in danger.     

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