India Today Headline

Farmer sledgehammering is not the solution to MSP and debt waiver problems

<p>The clouds of storms are gathering around Delhi’s borders. Following four rounds of negotiations with the Union government that produced no agreement, farmers from Punjab and Haryana have started their march again. After the Haryana police used force to kill a young man named Shubh Karan Singh at the Kanauri border by spraying rubber bullets and hurling tear gas, the situation has become much worse.</p>
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<p>As the impasse deepens, it is evident that the agitation’s contours are rapidly broadening. Following the young farmer’s death, the demonstrations, which were first spearheaded by a dozen or so Punjab-based kisan and agricultural workers unions to push for the minimum support price (MSP) and debt relief, have now attracted the attention of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the protest apex body for 2021.</p>
<p>A nationwide “tractor rally” to congest roads has been scheduled on February 26. On March 14, a “Mahapanchayat” of farmers is scheduled to take place in Delhi. After reflecting on the agitation of 2021, the leaders of the farmers have made the decision to reject compromise. Additionally, they are aware that now is the ideal time to act—that is, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.</p>
<p>Unprofitable rates</p>
<p>The agitations in 2021 that led to the repeal of the three agricultural laws are a continuation of the present wave of demonstrations. The measures enacted by the Union administration were seen by the farmers as an attempt to circumvent the “mandi” system, which offered loans and price assistance during difficult times. Financial interests saw the regulations as an effort to “corporatize” agriculture, taking control of the production and distribution of agricultural products.</p>
<p>A deeper concern brought up by this series of demonstrations is the suffering brought on by unjust pricing. Because of this, the core of the present movement is the call for legislation endorsing a minimum support price (MSP) for a range of 23 crops, not only rice and paddy.</p>
<p>Every now and again, the issue of uncompensated pricing and the need for an MSP system comes up. Sharad Joshi, a prominent farmer in Maharashtra who founded the Shetkari Sanghatana to seek fair pricing for a range of commodities, said it succinctly more than 40 years ago. Presenting the issue as a dichotomy between India and Bharat, he said that Urban India had conquered and exploited the rural hinterland via a network of intermediaries by exploiting its financial and political power. In order for farmers to profit from the inherent value of their commodities, he so requested direct access to both domestic and foreign markets.</p>
<p>The two primary obstacles in the present mess seem to be: (1) the government’s desire to restrict MSP coverage to commodities other than rice and paddy, such as pulses, maize, and cotton; and (2) the leaders of the farming community’s desire to include a range of 23 products that are very volatile in the market.</p>
<p>Second, the government has not responded to the fundamental demand that the MSP be determined by using the formula C2+50 percent, which include the family labor input value in addition to the cost of production, the rental value of owned land, and interest on fixed capital. The MS Swaminathan Commission suggested this as a way to address hardship in rural areas. Farmers’ representatives claim that prices may be lowered by up to 30% using the existing MSP formula, A2+FL.</p>
<p>The universal remission of debts to farmers and agricultural labor is the other main demand. The primary reason of the ongoing suicide rate among farmers is these debts, which have had a devastating impact on family income.</p>
<p>Bullets and tear gas</p>
<p>The plight of farmers in India is not exclusive. Due to declining prices, reduced subsidies, and rising input costs, agriculture has become less profitable globally. Over the last two months, farmer demonstrations have rocked France, one of the largest agricultural producers in Europe. To express their worries about competition from cheaper imports and environmental rules that have increased input prices, they have clogged roadways and deposited their wares on the charming streets of Paris. Poland, Spain, and Italy have also sent their farmers into combat.</p>
<p>The way farmer demonstrations are handled in, say, France vs India, however, differs dramatically. Tractors driven by French farmers are allowed to enter Paris to protest there, blocking roads and highways if they don’t become violent. This contrasts sharply with the use of drones to drop tear gas, gunfire directed against farmers and law enforcement, the construction of cement barriers, and the placement of enormous nails over roadways to keep protesters from getting to Delhi.</p>
<p>Gagging social media posts is another example of the Union government’s vast reach. Previously, “X” on Twitter acknowledged removing tweets and accounts in response to “executive orders” from the government, particularly those supporting farmers’ rights. X said that while it disapproved of these acts because they violated people’s “freedom of speech,” it was unable to take any further action since it was “subject to potential penalties, including imprisonment.”</p>
<p>The sledge hammer is coming down and the gloves are coming off on the ground, despite government requests for discussions to resume. Farmers in Punjab are sarcastically called “Khalistanis.” Although opinions on their demands and tactics may vary, farmers’ freedom to peacefully demonstrate cannot be curtailed. An early resolution does not seem likely based on what we have seen over the last several days.</p>