New Delhi: The farmers stationed at the Singhu Border, demanding a repeal of the recently enacted three farm laws, are confident about a complete shutdown of rural India on Tuesday. The protesting farmers have called for a Bharat Bandh after three rounds of talks failed between farmers’ organisations and the government.
Akashdeep Singh, who came along with other farmers from his village in Amritsar, said they are fully geared up for the Bharat Bandh. Talking to NewsClick, he said, “There are still distant towns and cities in the country which are unaware about our protest. We are seeking support from them in this struggle against the black laws which will ruin our peasantry.”
Singh said these laws will bring forth the fate the farmers of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh faced after dismantling of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees APMC). “Today, our rice is getting procured at Rs 1,980 per quintal whereas farmers in UP and Bihar hardly get Rs 800 per quintal,” he added.
The anguish gets reflected in the words of Jarnail Singh, a member of All India Kisan Sabha, who has come along with his Jatha (contingent) from Ludhiana in Punjab. “What does (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi wish to get by dismantling APMC mandi? We only get MSP for rice and wheat. We grew maize for which the government announced the minimum support price of Rs 1,400 per quintal whereas it sold for Rs 500 per quintal in the open market. The law has been brought at the behest of big corporates to ruin the farmers. But he (Modi) must also remember that if farmers get ruined, the country will be doomed,” he said.
Sitting under the shadow of a tent, Dilbagh Singh from Batala in Hoshiarpur district said farmers are abandoning crops like sugarcane which once got them good dividends. He said the prime driver behind such an extreme decision is delayed payments from government and private sugar mills which have withheld the payments since five years. Another farmer says mockingly: “The private mill owners are poor, we are so rich. That’s why we do not receive any payment.”
A batch of students from Punjabi University, who joined the protest, makes it clear that the laws have created anxieties about the survival among small and marginal farmers who marched en masse to Delhi borders.
Vijay Kumar, an LLB student, said farming contracts, if these laws gets implemented, will be between big landlords and corporate and agri-based companies. “Who will ask a farmer who owns two acres?” he added.
Singh explains the organic link between aadhtiyas (commission agent) and farmers. “If I need Rs 5 lakh for a health emergency, it is the aadhtiya who helps because he knows us very well. We both depend on each other. It is said that we can apply for a bank loan but everyone knows how many days it takes to get a loan”, he said.
Meanwhile, the All India Kisan Sangathan Coordination Committee, an umbrella organisation for farmers’ bodies, came down heavily on the Central government after it declined to repeal the laws. The body said: “The government is adamant and rigid in its determination to coerce the people of India, that it is not open to any criticism and suggestions and that all this time it was simply wasting time of the country by pretending to hold talks with an open mind.”
It added: “AIKSCC has again questioned the basis on which the Govt is claiming that it will reform the laws and give an assurance on MSP and procurement. Govt. experts have been openly claiming that Govt. procurement has to stop, because the country is grain surplus and food stocks are 2.5 times the requirement. They also say that MSP cannot be hardwired into law. What then is the credibility of any assurance of procurement and MSP? “
It went to add that “the 3 Farm Acts state that they promote establishment of Mandis by private big corporate, which automatically proves that the Govt. mandi will be de-promoted, like in all other sectors like health, education, insurance, banking, etc. This amply proves that Govt. intends to stop procurement. Farmers of India fully understand the impact of these laws, that they will create complete control and monopoly over Indian agricultural markets and will ruin and uproot peasants from their land. They are determined to fight this struggle to the very end and are joining in larger numbers in Delhi.”