Note: This piece was originally written for a law university by Chaitanya Pandey, Kanishk Pandey, and me.
For understanding anything it is of utmost importance that we start inspecting it from where the problem began. Only then will we be able to find applicable solutions.
A chain of events has prompted a circumstance where we are receiving global criticism from Celebrities, human rights activists, and international governing bodies, and we are receiving it rightfully so.
The very beginning of this was on the 17th of September when 3 farm bills were tabled in Lok Sabha, where they passed without much trouble due to the massive majority of the ruling party in the lower house. The protests began in Punjab and Haryana as soon as the passing of the bill in Lok Sabha became national news. In contrast to the discussion over the bill in Lok Sabha, the discussion in Rajya sabha was very controversial and seemed very undemocratic to the common public. But that is another very elaborate matter which needs a discussion upon in a separate article. Yashwant Sinha, former Finance Minister, said in an interview, “There is a well-established procedure of passing laws in the parliament [which was clearly not followed this time].”
The major problem with the Laws for the common farmers is that how these laws adversely affect the ‘mandis’ which have been a very significant part of India’s growth as an Agricultural nation.’Mandis’ are regulated by the government, which not only allows authorities to have background knowledge on traders but regulations also help the farmers as they have a safety net called the MSP if prices of food grains collapse.
The new farm laws allow traders to trade outside the ‘mandis‘(in unregulated zones) and not even pay taxes for that trade! And this all has been propagandized under a slogan that follows a very similar template to many of the ruling party’s controversial policies. The slogan goes as follows “One nation-one Market”, which as stated by many experts on the appropriate topics is just a very utopian narrative and not at all applicable for Indian farmers.
The reasons why this agitation against the establishment spread like wildfire across the country is because of this very nuance of the bill. The farmers feel that this could result in a boycott of the ‘’mandis’’ by the major traders with corporate powers behind them, as trading outside the regulated zones is beneficial for corporate powers. It results in a tax exemption for them but is very disadvantageous for the common farmer as they would be compelled to sell their products outside the ‘mandis‘ where there is no guarantee of MSP. So even ensuring basic survival would be at the mercy of the corporate power for the poorer farmers of India and would halt their upliftment possibly by decades.
The farmers have been protesting to fight this very issue along with some other minor ones (like farmers arrested for burning paddy stubble, and arrest of Farmer leaders due to the protest).
The popularity and the discussion around these protests became one of the hottest topics in the nation. This attention helped the farmers further push their agenda but has also resulted in some atrocious levels of journalism which have pronounced our farmers, the backbone of the entire nation, as Terrorists, Khalistani and Anti nationals. It has also resulted in the ruling party taking some not so friendly jibes, including the Prime minister terming protestors as “andolanjeevi” i.e. people who thrive on protests(English translation of ‘andolan’).
There have also been many news stories reporting altercations between the police and the protestors; the height of it was perhaps witnessed on 26th January during the “Tractor Rally”. Thousands of Farmers riding on tractors and horsebacks crossed police hoarding to continue their protest, the forces retaliated injuring hundreds and killing at least 1 and cases were filed under 1000s if not more on the pretenses on draconian laws used by the British to come cracking down on Indian protestors. While this is true, I also feel that Farmer Leaders should not run away from taking responsibility of whatever happened that day. This event only exacerbated the problem.
The government next ordered the people protesting at the Gazipur border to vacate the area but when the farmers decided to not comply. The struggle continued and the police were joined by the violent members of the Hindu Nationalist group Hindu Sena who hurled stones and assaulted the protestors camping out at the Singhu Border.
Clearly, there is a trust deficit between the farmers and the government which has happened because of the way this government has bulldozed these laws through the parliament. Not only this time, but the current government has not referred 75% of the 82 bills passed, to the select committee. This creates mistrust among the stakeholders, mainly the farmers in this case, and this time it is no different. The government should try and negotiate with the people it affects the most. If they are not able to make them understand the laws, then they should not go with it in the first place. Reforms by stealth are never successful.
Farmers are the backbone of the nation, Lal Bahadur Shashtri spent his entire life advocating “Jai Javan Jai Kisan” and the same government which has based their whole agenda around the nationalist fervor using the army has turned the farmers, who are equally as important, into Terrorists and the fact that the people have supported the establishment because of the appeal of a man who has constantly shown that he is hell-bent on destroying the very soul of India. The people who are the reason you have food on your plate, we as a country, as a community should be ashamed of what we have become. We have gone from being ‘the oppressed’ to the oppressors and that definitely wasn’t why our fore-fathers sacrificed themselves for this country. We have become Godse while we were supposed to be Gandhi.
“If India makes violence her creed, and I have survived. I would not care to live in India”– Mahatma Gandhi