Almost all social movements set a lot of emphasis on their immediate demands. These are obviously very important and often the success or otherwise of a movement is almost entirely judged in terms of the realization of these demands. Such a view, although very common, is not entirely correct. The achievements of social movements can also be very important, sometimes even more important, in the context of the longer-term agenda they help to set or advance.

In the context of the ongoing important movement of farmers in India, the immediate demand of repeal of three controversial farm laws should be met but in addition this movement should also set a wider agenda based on ecologically protective farming and justice for all sections of rural population.

The farmer movement’s immediate demands which are getting the most emphasis at present are those  relating to the repeal of the three controversial farm laws and some sort of a legal framework of MSP.

The first demand is a very clear demand of repeal of three controversial farm laws. This has been very firmly articulated and there is strong rationale for this. The legal framework of MSP is work in progress and it remains to be seen what shape exactly this will take.

However this should not lead to a situation which leaves no incentive for reducing farm costs. Reducing farm costs is a very important part of the solutions. The  recommendation of a commission which  stated that MSP should be 50 per cent  higher than widely defined costs has become very popular but it has not been asked  where will be the incentive for reducing costs if it is announced that no matter how high the costs become , 50 per cent higher price is assured.

It is very important to reduce costs on all external inputs, particularly chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides etc. and thereby contribute at the same time to protection of environment and increase of self-reliance ( apart from reducing costs). The key is to make as good use of free local resources as possible, and to protect the conditions ( such as protection of soil health, protection of pollinators, conservation of water and moisture etc.) in which low-cost agriculture best suited for small farmers can flourish.

In addition another important factor to consider is that we are looking at the welfare of not farmers but also other sections of rural areas who may be in even more difficulties, particularly landless workers, artisans ( like potters and weavers) as well as some of the service providers ( like boatmen ) who have been facing increasing difficulties.

Hence welfare of all sections should be a very important of the longer-term agenda, as also several aspects of social reform agenda including reduction of all intoxicants and removing all injustices and discriminations on the basis of gender, caste and faith.

The available data reveal that nearly 8.6 million farmers were reduced to landlessness over a period of just a decade 2001-11 ( or 3650 days), at the rate of nearly 100 farmers per hour and nearly 2400 farmers per day. This desperate situation needs not just the acceptance of immediate demands but also the careful evolving and fulfillment of a longer-term agenda of justice and ecologically protective agriculture.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and When the Two Streams Met ( Freedom Movement of India).


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