The movement of farmers, with its epicenter on the borders of the capital city but also having manifestations in many parts of the country, has attracted widespread attention. This is clearly a very important movement. It is attracting a large number of farmers and getting strong material and emotional support from several sections of society.
However attracting a large number of people is not a sufficient condition for describing a movement as a desirable movement from the point of view of the genuine, real progress of humanity. We have to look at what is most needed by the world in the present troubled situation, and to what extent a movement contributes to it. In the context of Indian agriculture today the most important task is to integrate the requirements of justice and equality in villages of India with the requirements of ecologically protective agriculture. From this perspective the present farmers’ movement does not exactly present ideal conditions, it presents rather mixed conditions. As a large number of farmer organizations are involved in this movement, it is difficult to characterize very accurately the character of the movement in terms of its commitment to justice and equality in villages on the one hand and protection of ecology on the other hand. There are some organizations within the movement known for strong commitment to justice, a few to ecology also, but it is difficult to say whether the movement as a whole is firmly committed to justice and equality in villages as well to ecologically protective agriculture.
Despite this limitation, I would like to emphasize that in the present conditions of India this movement deserves wide support. This is just not the time for pointing out any flaws or failures of any of the involved organizations. There can be time later for this, then too only from the point of view of encouraging corrections and improvement. At this juncture what we need to emphasize is that this movement deserves very wide support of people. This is mainly due to five reasons.
1.The main demand of this movement for the repeal of three controversial, hurriedly pushed farm laws is a correct demand. These laws instead of correcting the existing flaws and distortions of India’s farming system are likely to increase them. These were enacted without adequate consultation with farmers and state governments and the entire process was pushy and hurried, without allowing for the voice of most important stakeholders to be properly considered.
- Protesting farm organizations have rightly identified the increasing corporatization of the farming sector, in particularly the likely domination by some very big players, as a disturbing, disruptive and harmful trend which should be opposed.
- This movement has emerged from a growing unity of farmers and workers , and this is a very welcome trend. This trend is growing in the course of the movement and even broader unity is being achieved with the support of various organizations. This unity is very welcome and strengthens the overall resistance against dangerous authoritarian trends.
- This is a brave and creative movement. There are many signs of courage and determination in this movement, and everyday at protest sites there are numerous examples of inspiring creativity, ranging from the cooking and sharing of food to people coming to the help of each other in numerous ways.
- In the process of the movement the various inter-actions and meetings can be used to enhance the commitment to the wider objectives of ecologically protective agriculture and justice and equality at all levels in villages.
Hence clearly there is a strong case for widespread support to the farmers’ movement at this critical juncture, even while keeping in mind certain limitations of this movement in terms of the wider agenda of equality, justice and environment protection.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements.