New Delhi: The country desperately needs an independent Kisan Commission to assess the grim situation about farmers’ income and distress faced by the agrarian sector, the impact of climate change on cultivators and other related stakeholders like agricultural workers, fishermen and people engaged in hatcheries, said senior journalist P Sainath, who has extensively covered the rural economy in India. He said the process of setting up such a commission had begun.
Addressing a press conference on solidarity with the agitating farmers here on Thursday, Sainath, while hailing “the incredible” victory of farmers through reversal of three farm laws, said the laws were not about farm sector alone and indeed disenfranchised the citizen of India from their fundamental right to legal remedy.
“The farm laws were not only about the agriculture. Through Section 17, 18 of Farmer Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020, the Centre led by PM Narendra Modi infiltrated the states’ territory to determine the fate of millions of farmers without any consultation and consent. It also disenfranchised people from their right to legal remedy under Article 32. It caused so much uproar that the Delhi Bar Council had to write to the President that it was unconstitutional and thousands of lawyers will be affected because rural India has many cases related to land in district courts. They made a precedent about snatching this right first in Karnataka, where similar clauses were put in Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020 and now foisted upon farmers through these acts,” the Magsaysay award-winning journalist said.
Sainath said the repeal of controversial three Central farm laws had paved the way to ponder upon ways to ensure justice to the farming community and a Kisan Commission can be one among them.
“The farmers are rightly quoting the findings of Swaminathan Commission for a minimum support price covering comprehensive cost of cultivation and 50% margin for the crops. However, we find that the commission’s findings cannot protect the farmers completely,” he said, adding that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and the current Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance governments had “buried the recommendations of the commission because it did not suit their agendas.”
“They lost 16 years in implementing it. However, we are staring at a different problem altogether. Climate change is ravaging the crops, reducing the cultivable area. The communities engaged in honey collection, cattle rearing are devastated. To get a correct picture of the crisis, we are beginning the process of formation of this commission and will be talking to all stakeholders and prepare our report,” he added.
The press conference, organised by Nation For Farmers -- a collective of various students, youth, employees women and dalit and adivasi groups -- said the proposed Kisan Commission will be holding a process of public inquiry in collaboration with the organisations of different types of farming across the length and breadth of the country. The issues that would be addressed include the challenges facing the farmers in different states and sectors encompassed by agriculture and allied sectors providing incomes to various sections of the farming populations in India.
”Why a Kisan Commission? Because Commissions set up by officialdom have been buried whenever their recommendations ran counter to government and corporate interests. Kisan organisations have the challenge of consolidating the people-centric platform around the labour organisations, women organisations environmental groups, social movements and a variety of rights based platforms and networks of citizen groups involved with the struggles taking place around access to food and nutrition, holistic health, transformative education and safe environment, forest rights and revitalization of rural industries and value added agricultural activities taking place at the local level,” said the collective.
It said the idea was to create a robust vision and strategy of agrarian transformation with the active participation of farmers’ organisations with the aim to integrate the agenda of politics of food diversity, ecological sustainability, equity and social justice into the process of agricultural transitions without being influenced by corporate capital.”
Ashok Dhawale, National President, All India Kisan Sabha, farmers paid a tremendous cost to achieve the partial victory in the form of repealing the Acts.
“However, the Centre’s disdain over farmers’ struggle continues even after 680 farmers sacrificed their lives,” he said, adding that ”had Modi been really benevolent to farmers, Ajay Mishra would have been thrown out of council of ministers within an hour after the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre. He continues to be in the Council of Ministers and enjoys the confidence of PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah and shares dais with him.” Ajay Mishra, Minister of State for Home Affairs, has been alleged to be the mastermind of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident wherein four young farmers and a journalist were mowed down by an SUV.
Dhawale reiterated that the farmers’ struggle was here to stay until the Centre concedes “our demand of MSP as per Swaminathan Commission and withdrawal of Electricity Amendment Act.”
“He (PM Modi) did not utter a single word about MSP. He did not utter a single word about the Electricity Amendment Act. When we were in dialogue with the government, we were promised that they would be retracting the law from Parliament. The Bill is so dangerous that the consumers will have to pay electricity bills 10 to 15 times of current tariff. The power bills for farmers’ tubewell would be 8 times more as the corporate will completely takeover the sector,” he added