The ongoing farmers’ movement is one of the most widely discussed social movements of recent times. Despite this there is an uneasy feeling that in the middle of all the reporting, comment and discussion, we may still be missing the wood for the trees or giving less attention to some of the more basic issues.
After all, we cannot forget is that the most basic aim in this context is ultimately the improvement of the farming system. This has to be judged primarily in terms of protection of farming livelihoods based on sustainability, equality, food security, health, protection of biodiversity and environment ( including climate change adaptation and mitigation). Hardly anyone will dispute that the existing situation from this perspective is deeply worrying.
The three controversial farm laws should be certainly opposed because they worsen the already bad situation in many ways. So it is easy to agree on opposing them, and to support the ongoing farmers’ movement strongly in this opposition. But the real challenge of removing the so many other serious problems of our farming and food system will remain even if the three laws are repealed.
So clearly we cannot concentrate all attention on just the three laws but should give adequate attention to all important aspects of improving the farming system. As we look for such deeper and comprehensive improvements, we of course invariably ask what is the stand of such an important on-going farmers’ movement on these issues. If it has a strong and reassuring perspective on these issues, then our support for the movement increases even more. If we find the movement to be lacking in some important contexts ( as it appears quite likely just now), then we should seek to help and encourage the movement to make the necessary improvements. If in the course of several efforts it is found that the movement is not really interested in some of these important improvements, then the next step may be start searching for organizations and movements which are more interested in taking forward a more comprehensive agenda of improvements.
To summarise the complex situation in just six sentences–
- India needs a farming system based on sustainable secure livelihoods, equality, environment/biodiversity protection and production of safe, healthy food.
- Such a system does not exist today .
- The three controversial farm laws of 2020 push towards further worsening of a bad situation.
- The farmers’ movement deserves praise and support for demanding repeal of these three laws.
- However this farmers’ movement at present has several limitations and in its present form cannot lead towards a farming system based on equality, sustainable secure livelihoods, environment/biodiversity protection and safe, healthy food.
- Hence the farmers’ movement also needs important improvements.
The main point is that the entire discourse should be based on identifying the most basic improvements and striving to create conditions in which such an agenda of comprehensive improvements can move forward steadily.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Man Over Machine and Protecting Earth For Children.