For the last eight days, the nation has been watching thousands of farmers protesting on the borders of national capital, prepared for a long-drawn confrontation with the Centre on the issue of repeal of new farm laws. Most of the countrymen are sad when they watch farmers squatting, cooking and sleeping in the open in harsh cold winter. With highways linking Delhi closed at several border points, supply of fruits, vegetables and foodgrains has come to a standstill. The farmers have threatened to block Delhi if their demand for withdrawal of new laws is not met.
The people of India have utmost respect for the hardworking farmers and nobody likes them sitting indefinitely on the highways. Thousands of office going commuters faced ordeal this week as the arterial roads remained choked. There seems to be efforts by some vested interests who are trying to gain political mileage by instigating the farmers to continue with their agitation.
In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Wednesday night, we showed how some farmers in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand are taking advantage of the new farm laws by selling their crops to buyers, including corporates, at rates higher than those prevailing in ‘mandis’. We showed farmers in Nashik, Maharashtra, who have raised cash crops like onion, bananas, grapes and other vegetables are selling their crops at higher rates to buyers directly, without going to mandis.
A farmer Vinayak Hemade of Nandur Shingote village near Nashik grew green ‘dhania’(coriander) leaves on eight acre of land at a cost of Rs 40,000. After 50 days, he got a buyer from Nashik who came to his field and bought the entire crop for Rs 12,50,000. Hemade earned this money without going to the local ‘mandi’. He saved money on labour and transportation costs. Hemade has now became an ardent supporter of the new farm laws.
In neighbouring Gujarat, Mehsana is famous for growing cotton. This time, farmers formed small groups to bargain directly with cotton mills. Some of the farmers told India TV correspondent that they got Rs 1140 per 20 kg of cotton from the mill, compared to Rs 1100 per 20 kg rate prevailing in the ‘mandi’. Because of the new farm laws, the farmers are saving money on ‘mandi fees’. Farmers do not have to deal with middlemen now and they are happy with the new laws.
In Haridwar, Uttarakhand, a former horticulturist Manmohan Bhardwaj grew capsicums and bananas under a poly house spread over 10 acres of land. Earlier, he used to get only Rs 30 per kg for green capsicum, but now he is getting double the amount for capsicum directly from buyers. Bhardwaj is getting Rs 135 per kg for coloured capsicum compared to Rs 100 he used to get earlier.
In Baran, Rajasthan, nearly 1,000 farmers have joined what they called FPO (Farmer Producers Organization) WhatsApp group, where they get market and ‘mandi’ rates immediately on their cellphones and sell their crops directly to the buyers. Farmers from 12 villages have joined Anta Kisan Agro Produce group. According to these farmers, earlier they were at the mercy of middlemen, but now they get money directly to their bank accounts from buyers. This group provides fertilizer, seeds and pesticide to farmers at affordable rates.
These instances make it clear that most of the farmers across the country are not worried about the new laws. On the contrary, many of them are already taking advantage of the new laws to shore up their earnings.
Contrast this with the hundreds of farmers who have descended on the capital riding tractors and trolleys from Punjab. India TV reporters spoke to most of them. These farmers described the new farm laws as ‘kaala kanoon’ (black laws), but when asked on what points were they opposing these laws, the farmers remained silent. Most of the farmers appeared to be blindly driven by the talk of self-serving leaders who have told them that the new farm laws are ‘black laws’ and must be withdrawn. None of the leaders have explained the pros and cons of the new farm laws to these farmers, most of whom are hardworking, but illiterate.
Just imagine. How some leaders are playing with the lives and emotions of farmers, who say they have not read the new laws and are totally unaware about its provisions. Nobody tried to explain the new farm laws to these farmers in a proper and logical manner. Small time leaders with no grassroots like Medha Patkar, Yogendra Yadav, Pappu Yadav and Chandrashekhar Azad are trying to take political mileage out of this farmers’ agitation.
Punjab will be going to assembly polls in March 2022 and the Congress, Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party are already active among the farmers. The Left parties have sent their trade union leaders among the farmers. Leftist students and activists have reached the sit-in sites to sing songs using ‘dafli’ (musical instrument). In a democracy, dissent and protests by political forces are welcome, but when external forces enter the scene to create unrest, it becomes a matter of serious concern.
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