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The Pioneers of The Indian Agriculture Grassroot Work Say Farm Bills is Draconian, and Anti-farmer

A press conference was held on the 2nd of December 2020 in support of the farmers' demands for the repeal of the two new farm laws and the reversal of amendments to the Essential Commodities Act.

Called by several mass organisations, civil society groups, and academics, this press conference's objective was to share resolves to join hands in the farmers' movement.

Here's what the speakers had to say:

1. Palagummi Sainath – People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI)

"On the 26th of November 2020, a coalition of farmers and workers were poorly covered by the media as they marched to New Delhi for voicing their demands".

"In the last week, there have been seven editorials focusing or condescending the farmers by stating that the farmers and locals don't understand what the laws are and need to be explained and made aware by the government on the benefits. All the editorials say that these are good laws (there is firm support for the law by the dominant section of the media)- emboldening Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make statements against the farmers".

"The farmers at the gates of Delhi are fighting more than just these laws and they are aware of these laws- the farmers are fighting for all of us".

"Why were these laws passed at the height of the pandemic when there are other concerning matters? The government believes - never waste a good crisis as this is the time for new reforms".

Video credit: Satyen K. Bordoloi

2. MG Devasahayam - People's First (Former Chief Secretary, Government of Haryana)

"Only those who plow, lead us. All others go behind them".

The dimensions Mr. Devasahayam mentioned:

  • a total collapse of the governance: the worst problem is that the government hasn't understood the people.

  • We've addressed the issues of pricing, focusing on the farmer and consumer protection by bringing in i) price parity, ii) support price, and iii) intervention price. All these three cases are there on record in the Ministry of Agriculture but have unfortunately gone into oblivion.

"The current government is trying to bring oligarchy and oligopoly in the country"- meaning a small group of people having control of the entire country or a system. Globally, the government of other countries is taking action against it, but in India, the government is promoting it by extending oligarchy to farming. They know that food demand will continue even if they put these three laws".

"The use of water cannon on the farmers (especially on old people in this chilling weather) is barbaric on the part of the police".

3. Kavita Krishnan - All India Women Association

"Hum kisano k sath kyu khade hai? Kyukin ye sirf unki ladai nahi hai. Kisan hum sab k liye khade hai".

"We are standing in solidarity with the farmers because this is not just their fight. They are standing for each one of us".

"Kisano se bina pooche kanoon banana tanashahi ka poorn rawayya hai. Ye kisano ka shaheen bhag hai".

"When boy students were protesting in the country, they were called gangsters, when girl students were protesting, they were questioned on their character and said they took money to come to the protest. In Shaheen Bagh, protesters were even called khalistani. And now, the same thing is happening with the farmers of the country".

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi can say his mann ki baat but let the farmers say their mann ki baat".

Video credit: Satyen K. Bordoloi

4. Praveen Jha – Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)

"We need to look at the context - there is a long agrarian crisis, and it is connected to what's happening in the country now with a focus on neo-liberal theology. If we compare the 80s to now, in agriculture vs. non-agriculture, profit has come down from 1:2 to 1:6- this needs to be put into perspective when looking at the impact. It is now a public policy-driven crime that has been inflicted on the agriculture sector."

"Compared to all the other developing countries, we can see that ours is a system that's making the agriculture sector a ghulam of the corporates, and there is a need to connect it with neo-colonisation and imperialism and not just Adani and Ambani."

"Jis daur pe abhi hum pohonche hai, wo taboot me aakhri keel thokme wali baat hai. Ye sirf kisano ki samasya nahi hai, ye hum sab ki samasya hai kyunki ye 90 pratishat se jada bharatiya pe asar karega, seedhe ya paroksh roop se."

Video credit: Satyen K. Bordoloi

5. Mariam Dhawale – All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)

"In the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, the destitution among common Indian people has increased. On the 3rd of December 2020, women across the state of Maharashtra will protest against the farm bills."

"Due to the inefficiency of MGNREGA, majority of the people in rural India haven't received any form of payment and women farmers are the most affected and troubled owing to this."

"In the rural female workforce, more than 70 percent of women don't get their voices heard, and with the increasing prices of commodities, women and the impoverished section of the society will suffer."

"Looking from a women perspective, only 12.8 percent of women in India have a land, due to which they do not get any rehab package as they are not the owners of properties. With this law coming into practice, she will be thrown out of the decision-making process and from farming altogether."

"Ye desh ko loot kisi mutthi-band k hath me dena chahte hai, hume humari janvada adhikaar bachani hogi aur iske liye humara ek jutt hona jaroori hai."

"They are trying to loot the country and give it in the hands of a dictator, we need to unite to save our basic rights."

6. R Ramakumar – Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)

"I stand in complete solidarity with the farmers, and this struggle needs to be resolved at the earliest."

"We see in states, wherever private companies have taken over- example Bihar- that unscrupulous work is being done. The regulation on contract farming mentioned in the farm bills acts don't keep the plight of the farmers in mind."

"There are structural issues in the Indian farming sector, and the real need of the hour is public funding and not private takeover. Adani logistics took over Snowfield logistics in 2019- clear effort is being made by the corporates in anticipation of the breakdown of the mandis and MSP (Minimum Support Price). This signifies that both the farmers and the consumer will be left at the mercy of these corporates. This is the reason why the farmer organizations across India are asking a genuine question - WHO DEMANDED THESE LAWS? This will only tilt the balance of trade away from the farmers to the corporates."

Video credit: Satyen K. Bordoloi

7. Shalmali Guttal – Focus on the Global South

"It is important to emphasise that peasants and small farmers understand these bills completely. These laws offer no protection to farmers and consumers against the corporates."
"We need to learn from the past global disasters: The 1996 farm bill passed in the US proved to be a disaster, in Malawi in the year 2002, there was an increase in hunger-related deaths and was because of contract farming driving farmers into debts."

"The investors are protected in law and can sue the government if losses occur, but farmers and public do not have that power."

"One of the perplexing thing to keep in mind is that in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) globally, India has fought hard to safeguard local farmers and the current farm bills states completely otherwise from what we've stood for in the past. So what is this government doing?"

"The farmers who have gathered are fighting for us and we need to make sure that the public's interest is protected."

8. Annie Raja – National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)

"Whenever women come out in large number to protest, they say that women are paid- INR 500 in the case of CAA and INR 100 now in the case of the farm bills. It is a way of shutting down women's voice".

"There is no recognition of women farmers or agricultural workers in any part of the bill."
"System trade- particularly important for women farmers- isn't kept into consideration and there are no grievance redressal and/or gender sensitivity of women, this demotivates farmers and handicaps them. There can be no cases filed against any government body or anyone who is in the government. These laws are here to dismantle the farmers."

"There is a need to universalise PDS (Public Distribution System) with all essential commodities."

9. K. Ashok Rao - Delhi Science Forum

"No vegetable is grown from electricity, it is grown from water. We use two million tonnes of water every day."
"Water is distributed in rural farms either by canal irrigation or borewell. While investment made in canal irrigation doesn't change, public money is spent immensly in borewell. This will create a problem when you take water to water cost and compare- you will see that the electricity board isn't the problem then."

"With this bill coming to act, here are the condition of bidding doc:

  • all bidding will be on net asset value

  • for example- an INR 10 crore of property will have net asset value of INR 10 lakh

  • electricity board is required to make a clean balance sheet

  • we will also have to sign PPS"

"Today the condition is that Madhya Pradesh electricity board pays INR 500 crore every year for not using single unit of electricity. As an electricity board, my assests will go, I will not be using any electricity still paying the bills and my employees will have to juggle between departments. Electricity is a monopoly and it should be in the hands of the public where there are proper filters, when this will go from public to private hands and there will be no filter, this will be a loot."

"Agriculture has four pillars: seeds, fertilisers, credit and electricity. When all these four pillars come down, agriculture will be destroyed and our children will not get food to eat".

What could the government do differently?

- There is a need to institutionalise MSP and widen the MSP so each and every farmer gets that (instead of the current plan of weakening and withdrawing the SMP system).

- Price support is a critical factor and without MSP it can't happen. Removing MSPs will be bad for the farmers.

- Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) are very useful and include cooperatives under the states where companies-registereed under the companies act- help farmers as such collectivization of production is important with or without the farms acts. Currently, FPOs are very small in number and cannot tackle the adverse impact of the farm bills.

- If there should be any committee made, it should only happen after these laws are scraped and then agriculture experts and farmers should comprise the committee.

Here's the full video to watch:

Video credit: Satyen K. Bordoloi

The official press release can be found here.


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