The #FarmersProtest has brought into limelight the dangers of ‘corporatisation’ of agriculture which the farmers organisations know but our ‘economists’ sponsored and funded by big companies continue to provide us ‘data’ of the efficacy of the ‘private sector’. The three bills that the farmers are protesting, particularly from Punjab and Haryana will actually bring death knell to the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime and leave the farmers to the mercy of the market. We all know that the Western world too provides farmers a lot of incentives and support but in India nothing of that kind happens except the loan waiver on several occasions though the current dispensation is more interested in waiving off the huge debt of the corporate houses who have looted our banks and resources.
Many people suggest that because of government intervention, farmers are not getting the fair prices and once farm prices are left to the ‘private sector’ there will be a ‘win win’ situation for all. They also claim that with the new bills, the farmers will be able to ‘sale’ their produce to anywhere in India. Now, these look beautiful in presentation but not in reality. Suppose, the industrialists in Gujarat are paying better prices, can the farmers of Punjab and Haryana take their produce to Gujarat for that ? How feasible is this ? Second, except for Punjab and Haryana, there is not much MSP regime in India and the government procure their grain and sell it to the Central pool. Now, you decide that farmers do it themselves and look for a market for them, will only push them to middlemen who will exploit them more.
No other state has that much of an efficient system made for farmers as exists in Punjab and that is the reason, MSP for crops have helped farmers of Punjab much better than in any other states. It is this reason why farmers are so passionate about it in Punjab because they fear that they would be pushed towards disaster in the privatisation regime. Compare it to farmers elsewhere and the situation is bad because governments have not done things better.
Right now, the MSPs are decided for Rice, Wheat, Sugar cane as well as some other crops but it does not include vegetables. Have we seen how the onion farmers in Nasik or potato growers elsewhere suffered despite producing heavily. At many places they were compelled to sell their produce in Rs one per kilo gram while the public in the market was getting these produce for over Rs 60/-/ We heard the same about tomatoes and Bhindi which are beyond the reach of the common person but the farmers never get their due. They toil hard for months and yet when they go to Mandis, they are told that there is no demand because of ‘overproduction’ and hence he is compelled to sell it to the prices fixed by the Dalals. Isn’t it disturbing that we used to blame farmers for not producing things and when they produce, we blame them for over producing.
Those who are talking about private players will not answer these questions as why the farmers have to suffer even when they produce more and the answer is that there is no Minimum Support Prices for vegetables. If it is decided by states, it would help farmers tremendously.
In the current private monopoly, farm produce get nothing but if they are ‘processed’ then the companies sell them 20-30 times higher prices and people are ready to buy.
The three bills that the farmers are opposing have this intent to bring corporations into the vast agriculture sector and mint money from it. Farmers are not going to benefit from it and they know it well that it will be a doomsday for them as corporations want unfettered control over the resources.
It is good that farmers have realised that capitalism or corporatisation is dangerous to agriculture but I would request all farmers organisation to also identify the enemy as described by revolutionary father Jyoti Ba Phule whose masterpieces : Ghulamgiri i.e. Slavery and Kisan Ka koda ie. Farmers whipcord are the need of the hour. So, capitalism is definitely an enemy of farmers and so is priesthood which Phule called Seth ji-Bhat ji kee jodi. Phule identified most of the farming communities were from the Bahujan communities and they were divided into various castes and superstition by the brahmanical social order. The founder of Sikh Panth, Guru Nanak Dev ji too wanted to establish an egalitarian and enlightened social order and that is how Sikhism was born. Sikhism was a revolt against Brahmanical values. All the Gurus preached equality and spoke against superstition and birth based discriminatory systems. Punjab is prosperous and egalitarian, far better and superior to Gujarat, which has been proclaimed as a model’ state. Fact of the matter, in all the developmental index, Punjab is far ahead of Gujarat. That apart, in the social indices, gender relations, harmony, Punjab will score better than other states. Punjab feeds India and protects our borders. On both the fronts, Gujarat will be perhaps among the last. This is because, Punjab created an egalitarian society ( ofcourse, there are issues of castes and discrimination yet in ideological forms, the Sikh Gurus have most secular and humanist in their preachings} while Gujarat has isolated and ostracised Dalits and minorities.
The Farmers movement in India will never succeed unless it tries to understand that those who are pushing for corporatisation of agriculture, are the same forces who gained from the super structure of the caste system. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule, Periyar are therefore important reads for those who want the farmers’ movement to succeed. A kisan andolan that include Dalits and Adivasis in its fold, speak of their rights and ideological take a position to annihilate castes in India, as defined by Baba Saheb will revolutionise India. Unfortunately, many of the caste supremacists too speak of dangers of corporatisation but that alone will not resolve the current crisis. In the longer term, the farmers movement must understand what Jyotiba Phule said and how the powerful priestly classes divided the Bahujan communities and exploited their differences for their hegemony.
We stand in solidarity with the farmers of India for a fair deal. It is not merely one MSP but dangers of corporatisation of farming which will only bring destruction for the farmers while profit for big companies. Closely linked to the success of these companies is the hate campaign that they fund in India, against the poor, marginalised and minorities. If some of these TV channels are abusing farmers and calling them anti national then it is their owners’ who are the same corporate houses who want to control our agriculture and therefore as Phule said, Sethji Bhatji are the forces who exploited farmers through their connivance. Media will do everything to paint these protests as anti national as that is how our current regime builds narrative for their ‘devotees’ through whatsapp but people know of these things. Any big movement has diverse sections of people and they might disagree on various things and agree on certain things. Nehru’s cabinet had Dr Ambedkar as well as Shayama Prasad Mukherjee and that does not make Nehru a Sanghi. Similarly, these movements might have diverse sections and political opinions. Many might come here to get the opportunity to portray their political position but that does not reflect the ideology of the movement which is meant for the rights of the farmers. Nobody has the right to defame but today’s corporatised regimes of Seth ji are working closely with the priestly order of Bhat ji’s and therefore do not feel ashamed of spreading fake news through their paid media. This is shameful and condemnable.
We hope the movement will remain peaceful and completely democratic and the government will ultimately realise that it has to speak to the farmers unconditionally and that privatisation is not the answer to every ill that India has at the moment. Time to speak to the farmers and not to the corporate.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist. Twitter @freetohumanity