The farmers are demanding the scrapping of the three laws which were passed in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. The government's offer to amend these laws have been rejected by over 40 farmer union leaders who have been talking to the government on behalf of thousands of farmers sitting on five different borders with a set of five major demands since November 26.
The three laws introduced by the Government, on paper at least, seem well intentioned. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 – allows farmers to bypass the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and sell the produce directly to a big company, warehouses, cold storage chains, or even set up shop to sell directly to consumers.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 allows for contract farming, for a farmer to get into a contract with a buyer to cultivate specific products for a specific price. This ensures that farmers know the price they will get even before cultivation starts.
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 allows buyers to purchase and stock commodities without getting called a hoarder and being vulnerable to penal action.
Benefits (as per the government)
1. Farmers have got a new option insofar they will have the freedom to sell their produce outside the APMC (agricultural produce market committee) market and there will be no tax on such trade which will give a higher price to the farmers.
2. Farmers can sell their produce within the state or anywhere else in the country and there will be no restriction on this type of trade. This will benefit the farmers that they will be able to sell their produce to the merchant wherever they get a higher price.
3. There will be no need for any kind of license for traders to purchase agricultural produce of farmers in the trade area outside the APMC mandi, but also those holding PAN card or any other document notified by the Central government can join this trade. This will facilitate trade in agricultural products and will benefit the farmers.
4. In case of any dispute arising in such business, the matter will be settled within 30 days by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate.
5. There are also provisions of heavy penalty for violation of rules and regulations.
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Drawbacks (as per the farmers)
1. With this law, mandis operated under the APMC law of the states will be abolished. After the end of the APMC mandis, the farmers will be forced to sell the crop to corporate companies at one-and-a-half price.
2. Due to the abolition of the mandi system, there will be no purchase of crops on MSP.
3. Farmers' products have been going from one state to another in the past and the provisions of the new law are only for the benefit of the corporate and not for the benefit of the farmers.
4. Farmers will be exposed to the risk of fraud due to the entry of people without license or registration.
5. In case of any dispute in the business with the corporate buyer, there will be a danger of farmers' interests being ignored.
Besides these, farmers fear losing their land and becoming "slaves" to the corporates as far as The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 is concerned.
According to the farmers, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 is also in favour of big buyers.
Farmers' tractor rally violence
This is how it ends, not in order, but chaos, not peacefully, but violently; and not as a concerted display of farmer power, tractors being driven at high speed, at ITO and protests at the Red Fort in the centre of the national capital, threatening to run over anyone in the way on 26th January, 2021- The Republic Day of India.
This was not how it was supposed to be. The 62-day-long farm protest, seen by many as a fight of the small man against the State, was expected to reach a climax of sorts with a tractor rally through three designated routes in Delhi. Farm unions that hammered out a compromise with Delhi Police that made this possible promised a display of pageantry that would rival the morning’s Republic Day parade.
This was how it actually was: one of the groups from Ghazipur deviated from their agreed-upon route, and reached ITO, where they ran riot; another, from Singhu border, deliberately took a turn they were not meant to, and stormed the Red Fort, where one of the protesters climbed the first available flag post (it was empty and not the one where the national flag always flies) and hoisted the Nishan Sahib, the flag of the Sikhs, and subsequently engaged in a violent clash with policemen who were trying to disperse them.
As much as the Union government can be blamed for letting things come to such a pass, as much as Delhi Police can be faulted for intelligence failure for not anticipating the events of the day, the ultimate blame has to lie with the farmers, and their leaders, who are now saying how certain unions did not agree with the plans for the tractor rally decided mutually with Delhi Police and took matters into their own hands.
The protesters may have genuine concerns about the farm laws, but images of tractors being used to ram through buses and barricades, armed men with swords on horses trying to run down policemen, and the police rushing containers, buses and barriers to block key roads in central Delhi meant that the immediate concern was not the laws but law and order. The police fired tear gas shells and resorted to baton charges at several poi-several points where clashes broke out.
Mobile internet services were suspended in parts of Haryana, Delhi NCR and Uttar Pradesh.
International Interests on the farmers protest
In its showdown with protesting farmers, India's government is striking out at an unusual target: pop star Rihanna.
Farmers in India have been on the streets for over two months protesting recent agricultural laws that they see as a threat to their livelihood. Farmers in India have been on the streets for over two months protesting recent agricultural laws that they see as a threat to their livelihood. The demonstrators received backing from Rihanna, whose support has given them even more exposure on the world stage.
Many Indians thanked Rihanna for bringing international attention to the issue.For several months, tens of thousands of farmers have sat on highways in the biting winter cold, blocking roads leading into the national capital. A sprawling protest city has emerged with a community kitchen, laundry services and portable toilets.
Rihanna’s tweet was followed by a spate of tweets from other international figures in support of the farmer protests. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg said she stands in “solidarity” with them, while US Vice President Kamla Harris’s niece, Meena Harris, said “democracy was under assault” in India.
Authorities have filed criminal charges against dozens of protesters, farmer union leaders and activists for the violence. In some states, authorities have opened cases against an opposition politician and prominent editors of news channels and magazines for sedition for “misreporting” the incidents around the death of a protester.
If the farmers’ movement, in the face of rising state repression, can continue prying open the space for such transformations, it has the potential to remake Indian politics.
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