North Indian farmers protest for two bills which would free them from indebtedness and remunerative price for their crop.
Two Private member Bills of 2018 – ‘The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018′ and ‘The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Agricultural Commodities Bill 2018’ –were drafted. The umbrella organisation of 500 farmers’ unions across the country - All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) drafted the Bills which were presented by the then Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetty, who is also a renowned farm leader. They managed to get 21 political parties including Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP, CPI and others to support the Bill for which they even met the President in May 2018, in order to request him to pro-actively intervene in the enactment of these legislations. The Bills, however, were not passed despite immense pressure from the farmers. These farmers have now taken to the streets in the ongoing ‘Dilli Chalo’ Protest.
What were the Bills about?
Both the Bills are self explanatory - the first suggested that the government relieves and waive off loans for all peasants including, but not limited to, those who own lands and those that are landless, agricultural workers, sharecroppers, fishermen, and others. The first Bill is 28 pages long and demands that the government gives an immediate one-off loan waiver; provisions for farmers suffering from distress to obtain protection from the debt trap, and the subsequent constitution of a National Commission and State Commissions with power to pass awards and recommend appropriate measures for the relief of farmers from disasters and distress or natural disasters; a right to obtain institutional credit.
Furthermore, it includes that the reason to draft this bill was because thousands of farmers commit suicide and many are distressed due to indebtedness. The second Bill demands the MRP to be regulated and reduced on farm inputs like machinery, fertilisers, diesel, etc. Additionally, it also demands for a Cost and Prices Commission to be set up in order to oversee the entire cost of production.
Why are the Bills still relevant?
It has been over two years and the Bills have still not been considered in the Parliament. Farmers are still struggling due to mounting debt. Especially in the current situation, where the economy is declining at a fast pace and there are social and environmental changes, where rural India is facing unfathomable difficulty in sustaining itself.
“These private Bills are more relevant when things are only getting worse in rural India which is reeling under a severe economic, social and environmental crisis. The gross ignorance and callous mismanagement by the government has put the farmers in a tight spot. Unemployment is at its highest",
said Prof. Gian Singh, a farm economy expert who has conducted several studies on farmers’ suicide and rural indebtedness.
The two entitlements - waiver from debts and remunerative prices, need not be annotated simply due to the fact that the statistics are very evident and can be found in any official report. Farmer suicide is no secret, its not even hush-hush. Farmers have now taken to the streets to protest for their rights and fight for themselves, however, the government has some other plans. Just a few days ago, during the farmers’ peaceful protest, water cannons were used by the police to disperse the crowd, following which a man was arrested for ‘attempt to murder’ merely because he turned off the water supply.
What was the Twitter spat all about?
The government’s new (unofficial) face, Kangana Ranaut was involved in a Twitter feud with Diljit Dosanjh, who essentially destroyed her upon being called “Karan Johar ke paltu” (Karan Johar’s pet). It first started when she made a false claim in a now deleted tweet about a Sikh woman and stated that she was also part of the Shaheen Bagh protest and is available for such acts for Rs. 100. Dosanjh took offence to this statement and started a well-deserved war of words with her.
What does Canada have to do with this?
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, during a virtual meeting with the Sikh community extended his support to the Indian farmers which may have backfired as Indians have called his opinion “ill-informed”. Trudeau’s comment seems suspicious and political in nature in order to appease the massive Sikh community in Canada. It is also important to note that the Canadian PM has more Sikh ministers than Manmohan Singh did during his time and PM Narandra Modi has currently, which makes this cause lucrative in terms of vote bank.
Farmer leaders who met three Union ministers for the fifth round of negotiations who were offered to amend contentious provisions of the new farm laws, which they rejected and stuck to the demand for total repeal. The representatives of 40 farmers’ unions also threatened to walk out of the decisive deliberations which were taking place at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi. A joint platform of 10 central trade unions including farmers have extended their support for a ‘Bharat Bandh” on December 8th.