Patna: In Bihar, there is an increasing sense of support for the farmers protesting against the Farm Laws in Delhi and other places across the country. The Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) formally announced its support to protesting farmers on Friday and announced a dharna in Patna on Saturday.
The Left parties in the state have also been on the streets in solidarity with protesting farmers and against the Farm Laws.Thousands of leaders and workers from Left parties took to the streets on Wednesday, staging protests, rallies and demonstrations across Bihar. RJD leaders and workers had also joined the protest in the state, with the party extending its support to the protesting farmers.
Calling the three laws “kaale kanoon” – the term which has resonated among farmers from Punjab and Haryana – RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav appealed to farmers and their organisation in Bihar to come out on the streets against the legislation and express their solidarity with protesting farmers in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and in other parts of the country. Yadav said that by doing, this they will strengthen the protesting farmers.
“Our party (RJD) will stage a dharna near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at Gandhi Maidan in Patna on November 5 against the farm laws. Party leaders, workers and farmers will take part in this dharna,” he said. He added that the party had taken to the streets and protested against the laws on September 25. “I have protested by driving a tractor in Patna,” he added.
Yadav, the chief ministerial candidate of the opposition Mahagatbandhan (Grand Alliance) in the recently concluded Bihar assembly elections, said the Centre has been cheating the farmers in the name of Farm Laws. “The protesting farmers are our own people but the central government is doing everything to suppress them by using police force and by designing conspiracies to derail their agitation,” he said.
It is surprising that at a time when lakhs of farmers are protesting out in the cold, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen to maintain a studied silence, save for listing the benefits of the Farm Laws on occasion and saying that the farmers had been misled.
Yadav added that this was the same NDA government at the Centre which had announced that it would double the farmers income by 2022, but had ended up doing away with the minimum support price (MSP). “The government is hell bent on handing over agriculture to big private players, particularly to corporates. It is part of a well-planned move to force farmers to sell their produce and purchase seeds from private companies,” he said.
Yadav cited government-owned entities like Air india, the Railways, Bharat Petroleum, BSNL and LIC, saying that as they would be handed over to private players, so would agriculture.
He said that if the farm laws were good for farmers, then why have thousands of farmers been protesting. Even the Akali Dal, a BJP ally, has opposed the laws. “The NDA government led by Modi is insensitive to the protesting farmers. As all of us know, one-third of the country’s population is totally dependent on farming,” he said.
The RJD leader said that the majority of farmers in Bihar were in distress and have been forced to migrate outside the state in search of a livelihood. He said that unless something was done to help the farmers, Bihar would continue to witness the highest number of migrations by farmers and farm labourers.
RJD state president Jagdanand Singh said that the “anti-farmer” policies of the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government had forced farmers, particularly the marginal and small ones, to leave farming and migrate outside the state to earn a livelihood.
“Thanks to Nitish Kumar, the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act (APMCA) was abolished in 2006 in Bihar, badly affecting farmers. The aim was to enable private companies to buy directly from farmers, but as per the government’s own data, it failed to benefit farmers,” Singh said.
Singh, who belongs to a farming family, said that after APMCA ended, private companies failed to purchase even one per cent of the procurement target fixed by the state government. “The fact is that farmers’ condition deteriorated after APMCA ended,” he added
Bihar has a recorded lower volume of wheat procurement by the government at the MSP this year. As per official figures, only 0.05 lakh tonnes (LT) of wheat was procured in Bihar in 2020-21, against the revised target of 7 LT. In 2019-20, the state agencies procured 0.03 LT of wheat.
According to government data, nearly two-third of Bihar’s total population of twelve crores is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Most of them are small and marginal farmers. Moreover, nearly two-third of all agricultural activities in the state are dependent on rainfall.
Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, employing 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state’s gross domestic product, according to the state government’s figures.