Why should you bother?
No, you should not, if you are among the top 1% of the richest people of this country.
For the rest, let us take a moment outside the endless Instagram Reels.
Government of India passed three bills related to farmers on 27th September 2020. The wicked haste manner in which the Bills were passed in the parliament was indication enough of the ulterior motive the government had. Protests started. Naturally, farmers started the protests, who are to become the first victims of the Bills. (And I am saying ‘first’ deliberately, because certainly, they are not the only victims).
The government resorted to its tried and tested method to crush dissent. (I think they have saved it as a template by now). Start with indifference, then use force to stop them (dig a road or two), then defamation through their lapdog media houses and by now infamous IT Cell, then a parallel narrative of other farmers being in favour of the Bills. Next in line will perhaps be an arrest of key protesting leaders, the slapping of UAPA, a national security situation arising out of nowhere. Your guess is as good as mine.
What has happened?
A lot has already been written about how the Bills will act as a foundation stone for the corporatization of agriculture. While Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Production and Facilitation) Act, 2020 is a systematic way of killing the APMC (read Sarkari mandi with MSP guaranteed), Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 snatches the farmer’s right to go to court for dispute resolution with big corporates and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 removes foodstuff such as cereals, pulses, potato, onions, edible oilseeds and oils, from the list of essential commodities, removing stockholding limits on such items except under “extraordinary circumstances”.
I know. I know. Big words. But, it’s not that difficult to understand. A simple cursory reading through the lines of the Bill exposes the funny image of Mr A and another Mr A salivating with the tongue out at the prospect of owning the biggest sector of the Indian economy, agriculture. (While one more Mr A is happy with the cut he gets from this deal). Let me try to explain, as per my own little understanding.
What is the problem?
Agriculture is a difficult thankless profession. Mainly because the product they deliver is perishable and have a short shelf life. And the financial status of the majority of our farmers is such that they can not afford to store their product in cold storage. So, they are at the mercy of the buyer to sell their product. Essentially, they are not at a bargaining position to strike a profitable deal. Often they incur heavy losses and then loans for sustenance. Another season another loss. It either ends with bondage labour or hung by the neck.
In this situation, it is the government’s duty to buy their product and pay them an amount necessary for their survival, which barely covers their cost of production, a Minimum Support Price (MSP). The government can either sell the product, export to other countries, store for later use, distribute to poor or use during emergency situations, like floods, earthquakes, wars, economic crisis etc. Now, the government wants to kill this arrangement, albeit, very cleverly. They want to bring in private Mr A to buy the product (without any guarantee of MSP). So Mr A will start with incentives in the beginning and once a monopoly is created in the market, dictate terms of trade that maximises their profit.
How will you be affected?
The farmer is screwed. And you will be doubly screwed when the same Mr A will control the demand and supply of food items and will sell you dhania and mirch at exorbitant prices. Moreover, during an earthquake, the government will not have enough reserves to feed people. No reserve. No liability. Probably Mr A will throw bits from their philanthropy budget.
Now let us understand one more thing. Have you ever wondered, the price of onion fluctuates throughout the year while wheat remains steady? Why? And what happens, if the wheat price fluctuates? Imagine, in January you get wheat at Rs. 30/- a kilogram and in June Rs. 600/- a kilogram. What happens to that daily labour who earns fixed income every day (Rs. 300/- by the way)? What if all salt producing companies decide to sell salt at say Rs.5000/- a kilogram? Or a matchbox for Rs.100/-. Or a condom for Rs. 500/- (you get the point). Will everyone be able to survive? I guess not. That’s where comes the concept of Maximum Retail Price (MRP).
What is MRP?
The government regulates the price of essential commodities so that they are reachable to everyone. The government also forbids the stockholding (jamakhori) of such essential items so that prices can be regulated. Now, this Bill removes foodstuff such as cereals, pulses, potato, onions, edible oilseeds and oils, from the list of essential commodities, removing stockholding limits on such items except under “extraordinary circumstances”.
I think this one is very simple to understand. Remove essential food items from the list of essential items (irony), allow hoarding by Mr A, control the market. Mr A reaps huge profits. Mr A in government gets a cut. This is clearly an attempt by the government to benefit their corporate friends and loot the people of this country.
In simple words, you are going to be screwed. Not only farmers. So, it is as much your fight as it is theirs. Fight, till you can. Speak up. If not anything, be aware at least. There’s a sadistic pleasure in being aware before being screwed.
PS: Voice of Margin sees the ongoing farmer’s peaceful protest as extremely necessary and urgent for the survival of the agrarian economy. In light of our guiding principles, we would like to associate and amplify the voice of the country’s largest professional minorities. We extend voluntary media services to the ongoing protest and commit to reaching out to the maximum possible.
Our team has also established contact with people managing ‘Trolley Times’ and would republish its content on VoM website in 2 languages.
We are running a campaign called ‘VoM: Join the Farmers Campaign‘ under which we are also reaching out to our user base for written and multimedia content to create awareness regarding the farm bills and farmer’s protests.