The Three Farm Laws passed by the Central Government will be burdensome for the agricultural labourers, city poor and other marginal sections of the society along with the farmers.
Presently, Punjab Government under the Public Distribution System, distributes 420 million, 69 thousand and 500 quintals of wheat on 3.6 million and 57 thousand ration cards, and it covers nearly 14 million, 72 thousand and 800 persons. According to the claims made by the PM Narendra Modi and Central Government, last year during lockdown it had provided grains to nearly 800 million people. According to a fresh report published by Global Hunger Index, India stands on 94th position among 107 countries, which are suffering from starvation. According to this report, the condition of India is worse than Pakistan and Bangladesh. Nearly seven lakh children in India die by malnutrition every year.
Keeping above conditions in view, the strengthening of PDS and economic betterment of the poor is a need of the hour. However, by implementing three Farm Laws, the Modi-led BJP government is going totally opposite to what is needed. Having many inherent defects, PDS, the last respite of the poor, will surely be wiped out after the implementation of these laws. Even a common person can understand that if the government stops procurement through MSP, then from where the arrangements of grain for PDS will be made? The promises made by the government to procure the grains needed for PDS are simply deceitful. In the same way, by amending the Essential Commodities Act of 1955, the government has given a great exemption to the big traders to hoard large stocks of grain, cereal, potato, onion, edible oil, etc. In our country, even with the laws to stop hoarding of essential commodities up to a specified limit, the situation has remained abysmal as the big traders, through black marketing and hoarding, have created scarcity of essential commodities and mounted the prices to such a level that they go out of reach for the common man. However, now the legal exemptions given to the big traders to stock the commodities on their freewill will pave the way for skyrocketing of the prices. Therefore, these exemptions will become instrumental to throw the already empty-stomached and food-scarcity ridden urban and rural populations deeper into the jaws of starvation. Though, the Modi government claims that it has made some arrangements for governmental intervention if the prices of the short-shelf-life commodities goes up by 100 to 150% in normal conditions, while also including the situations of war, pandemic or natural calamities. However, in these exceptional conditions these norms are not executable for the contractual farmers and the food processing units working only for export. In this way, the government has kept a back door open to provide relaxation to the hoarders even in these exceptional situations.
Apart from this, the multinational companies led contractual farming will be ruinous for the employment of farmers and agricultural labourers, and it will also push the vast population of our country into the jaws of pandemics and diseases. It is very much evident that these companies, which will cultivate thousands of acres of leased land, will never hesitate to use chemicals and huge machinery to maximize their profits. Agriculture sector is already a meagre source of employment for the labourers and the use of huge machinery will further shrink the employment for labourers in this sector, as it will result in the entering of vast army of unemployed farmers into the labour sector, pushing them out of the agriculture sector. It is also a well-known fact that under the name of increasing production, due to the overuse of chemicals and pesticides during Green Revolution, people have already been suffering from deceases like cancer, sugar, kidney failure and heart attack. The ground water has been going down continuously, land productivity is decreasing, and it has become completely dependent on chemicals. The blind use of chemicals in the multinational corporations-led contractual farming will throw the vast population of country in the ditch of diseases. In nutshell, the forcibly imposed three Farm Laws will prove catastrophic for the agricultural labourers, and other sections which are directly linked with agricultural sector and, for the urban poor sections.
Therefore, it is evident that these laws will be equally harmful for agricultural labourers as well as the farmers. The special session of Punjab Legislative Assembly called by the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had not fulfilled any expectations of people, as the amendments made by Punjab Government are incapable of placing any hurdles in the path of Modi government’s given exemptions to the corporate houses in order to exploit farming sector. Further, these amendments need consent of President who is completely bound by the Central Cabinet to make any decision in this regard. Therefore, there is no hope for the acceptance of these amendments made by the Punjab Government. In this way, the Laws made by the Central Government will crush the agricultural labourers along with the farmers.
However, only the more conscious sections of agricultural labourers have yet participated in this on-going struggle. The vast section of agricultural labourers is not yet aware about the harmful effects of these laws upon their lives. Even the unorganized section of this class, who are the majority, perceive this agitation as an issue of the land-owners only and remain distant from this struggle. The weak organizational situation of agricultural labourers and the pain of casteism are among the several factors behind this. As the Modi government is not wilful to step back or to repeal the Farm Acts, which it had made to ensure the huge profits and exploitation of the corporate houses, there is a dire need to develop this farmer agitation into a people’s movement. The farmer movement has attained recognisable support from the urban sections, which is a positive development, but its expansion and stability is still in the process. There is a great need to pay attention towards this task by the leading organizations of this struggle.
Lachhman Singh Sewewala, General Secretary, Punjab Khet Mazdoor union