RSS affiliate backs protesting farmers, says new Acts only favour companies

farmers march 1

In fact “these people ( the bureaucrats ) have even made the Prime Minister give wrong statements about the Acts,” says leader of  BKS.  It shows how the State functions and ruling politicians have to toe the line and sell it to the public. It bulldozes any dissent, even if it is from its own camp.  

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliate Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has come out in strong support of the farmers, saying the Acts only serve the interests of corporate houses and big traders, not farmers. The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), another RSS affiliate, has also issued a statement opposing the laws,reported, December 3, 2020.

It is utterly false to say only political opposition is behind the agitation.

The laws, according to senior BKS functionaries, have many lacunae, none of which have been reviewed by the government despite repeated entreaties. BKS also lent moral support to the ongoing farmers’ agitation, but said it won’t participate physically as it has never taken part in any violent protest in its history.

“We were among the first organisations to voice our opposition to the three Acts long before anyone else and had sent memorandums collected from 3,000 tehsils across the country to the agriculture ministry to amend the Bills, but nothing was accepted,” BKS General Secretary Badri Narayan Chaudhary told Business Standard.

He said gram sabhas in around 15,000 villages across the country passed resolutions to amend specific provisions of the Acts, but none of these was considered by the government.

“We met the agriculture minister to voice our concern, but even if he seems convinced about our stand, as soon as he sits down with officers and bureaucrats, he begins to advance the same old arguments,” said Chaudhary.

In fact, he adds, “these people have even made the Prime Minister give wrong statements about the Acts”.

BKS says if the government can’t repeal the three Acts, then it should bring a fourth legislation that guarantees minimum support price (MSP) when any agricultural good is traded within the mandi by ensuring that MSP acts as a floor price for any auction. And, for trade carried outside the mandis, there should be penal provisions to ensure it is not below MSP.

“Our advice to the government will be to immediately start and continue the process of dialogue with farmers and clear all their apprehensions satisfactorily,” Chaudhary said.

Meanwhile, a section within the BJP Kisan Morcha, the ruling party’s own farmers’ cell, feels that some tweaking of the laws could be considered to satisfy farmers so that the agitation does not spiral out of control.

While Bhartiya Kisan Sangh has pointed to lacunae in the farm laws, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch voices opposition as well.

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“Ensure that MSP is made a legal provision”: SJM 

In fact , this is not today , and not  just under pressure of the agitation. In September, 2020 itself, two affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have sought assured MSP for farmers, saying it should also be available in the open market, reported  Neelam Pandey  for , 19 September, 2020. In a media statement, the SJM urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that MSP is made a legal provision, which is now the demand of the agitators.

The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) have urged the Modi government to ensure that MSP — minimum support price, which guarantees a certain level of returns on produce — is a part of purchases inside and outside mandis as well.

“We have issued our statement and, in our discussions, have informed the government that MSP should be applicable for farmers in the open market, besides mandi, too,” said BKS organising secretary Dinesh Kulkarni.

“At the same time, traders who want to buy from the farmers should register themselves in a portal and should not be allowed to buy only on the basis of PAN card,” he added.

“We have suggested that the government should integrate MSP with the open market. That is, if the farmer sells his produce anywhere, then he should be assured a minimum support price. No one should be allowed to purchase below it,” he said.

 “Now that new agriculture laws are being made, MSP should be made a legal provision whether a purchase is made inside or outside a ‘mandi’. Those who try to deny farmers this right should be punished as per law,” said SJM national co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan.

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“Anyone purchasing below the floor price should be penalized,” SJM

So, you should put it in the law that anybody purchasing any produce from a farmer has to pay the MSP, and anyone purchasing below the floor price should be penalized,”SJM .

‘The Swadeshi Jaagran Manch (SJM)  has requested the government to bring a change in the law which will ensure MSP as the floor price for all farmers below which nobody should buy anything from them,’ said Economics Professor Dr. Ashwani Mahajan, (see photo below) the SJM co-convenor, lists the changes that the Manch wants made in the laws, in an interview to Shobha Warrier of October 07, 2020. “What we at Swadeshi Jaagran Manch feel is, the intent of the farm bills is good.”

Dr Ashwani Mahajan who teaches Economics in Delhi is also a visiting professor and research guide at Pacific University, Udaipur and Mewar University. He is the  the National Co-Convener of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, Chief Editor of Journal of Contemporary Indian Polity and Economy since 2011. He works as a researcher and activist on World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international trade agreements, he has attended three ministerial  conferences of WTO. He is an author  and a writer who contributed to media and journals including  Economic and Political Weekly,  Mainstream.

Mahajan said  (Excerpts follow) :

“The problem in present-day agriculture is that farmers are subjected to various types of exploitation. The major problem farmers face is, they do not get a good price for their produce….

“Yes, the cause of concern for us is that there won’t be a level playing field. What we are saying is, when the procurers work outside the mandi, the interest of the farmers should be protected. When the number of mandis come down, it will be an incentive for the buyers to buy outside the mandi. In turn, the farmers will be forced to sell outside the mandi because buyers are only there…”

“Won’t this lead to exploitation of the farmers? Yes. Since farmers have very little bargaining power, there are chance of them getting exploited. So, the Swadeshi Jaagran Manch feels that we must ensure at least a Minimum Support Price (MSP) to the farmers outside the mandis. Till now the procurement is done only by the government, and they were given a minimum support price. Even while passing the bill, the government went on to say that MSP will continue.

Our concern is, the procurement by the government is only 6% of the total agricultural production. For the rest 94%, it will be outside the mandis and outside MSP.

“ So, we feel that the laws should be with those who have less bargaining power, and those who are economically less privileged. And farmers come in this category. Therefore, we need to protect them.” 

As National Co-Convener of Swadeshi Jagran Manch he has been instrumental in changing  economic policies. His policy interventions include withdrawal of controversial ordinance on land acquisition,  getting field trials of GM crops policy revisited, FDI policy of the government especially retail trade and e-commerce. (Wikipedia)

“ See, the corporates sell the products at a price decided by them which is irrespective of the cost of the production. And consumers purchase at the MRP decided by them even though there is no justification for that MRP. Every authority, from the government to the income tax department, accepts this. Deals are made on MRP which has no scientific basis.

Is that not how the free market works?

Yes. That is exactly what we want to stress upon. The very first resolution SJM passed was that corporates or companies should announce their cost of production. But they don’t announce the cost of production and they decide the MRP.

If this is how free markets work, how do you expect a farmer who has a small holding to know the moods of the market? Those who have the money, govern the market.

Yes, markets are unregulated. So, the SJM has requested the government to bring a change in the law which will ensure MSP as the floor price for all farmers below which nobody should buy anything from them. It means, whether it is the government or the private entity, everybody is obliged to pay the MSP when they buy a product from the farmers.

I will give you an example. Australian wheat comes at Rs 1,600 per quintal after paying all the taxes. In India, the government purchases wheat at Rs 2,000 from the farmers. If the free market is allowed to function, more and more Australian wheat will come to India, and Indian farmers will be forced to sell their produce at less than Rs 1,600.

Since the farmer is less privileged, the government should fix a minimum floor price which will be a scientific one. You should also remember that the corporates are allowed to sell agri produces at a price that is not scientifically decided. Nobody knows how they decide the MRP. But the MSP is scientifically calculated because the government can calculate each and every element of the cost.

Such an MSP is more egalitarian, pro-farmer, pro-poor and scientific. So, you should put it in the law that anybody purchasing any produce from a farmer has to pay the MSP, and anyone purchasing below the floor price should be penalised.

Views on development

A critique of globalisation, Mahajan  believes that GDP growth-centric philosophy of development does not suit India. This model talks about the last men in the queue and favours integrating growth with employment generation.

He has been critical of foreign direct investment and ready to use therapeutic foods.  Mahajan is a staunch opponent of genetically modified (GM) seeds, has been running a tirade against permission to new GM seeds in India.  

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“A redressal mechanism, an agricultural court, so to speak, can be set up,” SJM Chief had said.

That was as early as September 22, 2020. It is now one of the demands of the farmers’ agitation.

“While the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Union government have gone hammer and tongs in pushing the bills, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi terming those opposing the Bills as being in thrall of “middlemen”, the RSS’ affiliate raising these red flags in what is the most ambitious political economy intervention of the Modi government is significant,” commented the Hindu correspondent, September 22, 2020.

Speaking to The Hindu, SJM national co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan said that the organisation overall supported the Bills but there were certain issues that could be finessed upon. “There is a good system of calculating Minimum Support Price (MSP) for certain crops, which is cost plus 50%, and is enforced in government procurement and also dictates price levels in mandis. When corporates have been allowed to buy crops outside the mandis and sell at the Maximum Retail Price (MRP), then why not get them to buy at MSP? For this, the government should bring in another Bill or amend the current one,” he said.

He added that the dispute redressal forum being the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) will discourage ordinary farmers from seeking restitution. “Why burden an already burdened SDM? A redressal mechanism, an agricultural court, so to speak, can be set up,” he said.



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