Farmers All Set for Protests near Parliament
THE Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) is all set to go ahead with its plans for parliament protests on all working days of the monsoon session from July 22 to August 13. Kisan sansads will be organised at Jantar Mantar by 200 protestors each day. The nine-member coordination committee of SKM held a meeting with senior officials of Delhi Police. The plans will be executed in an orderly, disciplined and peaceful manner. The protestors will leave from Singhu Border each day, with ID cards. Any violation of discipline will not be tolerated.
Confirmation has been received that large contingents of farmers from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Manipur, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan shall participate, in addition to Punjab and Haryana. Special marches by women farmers on July 26 and August 9 shall also see participation of large contingent of women farmers and leaders from across India including North-Eastern states.
Popular Punjabi artists Babbu Mann, Amitoj Mann, Gul Panag and others performed before an ecstatic audience of farmers and local people at Singhu Border. The artists extended their full support to the farmers’ movement and also appealed to all citizens to stand in support of the farmers. Eminent economist Ranjit Singh Ghumman visited the Tikri Border and addressed farmers, expressing support to the farmers’ movement.
OPPOSITION MPs TAKE
BJP GOVT TO TASK
The parliament’s monsoon session began on July 19. Opposition MPs took into both houses of parliament issues that the farmers' movement has been raising for many months now. The halls of parliament were echoing with slogans that went straight from the farmers' movement into parliament. The slogans raised were those of citizens who are being subjected to the government's undemocratic and unconstitutional onslaught of laws and policies in various sectors. They demanded that the government repeal the three anti-farmer farm laws, four anti-worker labour codes, withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill, and fuel prices at least halved, in addition to MSP being made a legal guarantee for all farmers.
SKM has noted that the government of India has listed The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill 2021 (to replace the ordinance that was re-issued) as well as Electricity Amendments Bill 2021 under legislative business for the monsoon session. SKM warns the government against any reneging of the commitment made to the protesting farmers on December 30, 2020 on these matters.
In Sirsa in Haryana, the indefinite hunger fast of Sardar Baldev Singh Sirsa entered the third day on July 20. The stand-off with the administration continues, even after meetings between the administration and farmers' delegation. After a July 11 protest against the deputy speaker of the Haryana assembly Ranbir Gangwa, cases have been falsely foisted in the name of more than 100 farmers, with serious charges like sedition included. The SKM has demanded that all cases be withdrawn and five arrested protestors be released immediately. It is clear that a weak Haryana government is resorting to cheap tactics of slapping charges on false and cooked-up charges like sedition on protesting farmers as a desperate measure. In the backdrop of the chief justice of the Supreme Court expressing disapproval of the use of the colonial era repressive law of sedition in post-independent India, the action of the police is indeed reprehensible. Under the BJP government, the police are committing grave illegalities and unconstitutional acts. All arrested farmers will be given full legal support by the SKM.
In Sirsa itself, deputy CM Dushyant Chautala was met with black flag protests on July 20. In Charkhi Dadri, another BJP leader Babita Phogat had to face black flag protests from farmers.
In Chandigarh, three arrested farm activists got bail last week. The lawyers' group fighting on behalf of the protestors will also apply for quashing of the FIRs, which led to false and fabricated cases foisted on the protestors. The Chandigarh police unleashed violence on peacefully protesting farmers, who gathered to protest against BJP's Sanjay Tandon and Ravikant Sharma (mayor of Chandigarh). Worse, they even picked up and arrested a child! When video clips of the eight-year old arrested boy went viral, the police put out a flimsy explanation that cut no ice with anyone.
AIF CLAIMS EXPOSED
SKM has exposed the full picture about the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) under the so-called Atmanirbhar Bharat Package. There is simply nothing like a one lakh crore fund allocated by the central government, contrary to the flashing of big numbers. There is not even Rs 1000 crore of budgetary allocation for AIF. Weakening the mandi system through anti-farmer laws and then saying that the government will facilitate borrowing by the mandis under AIF is just a jumla announced after the first meeting of the expanded union cabinet. The union agriculture minister saying that the laws will not be repealed but mandis will be strengthened through AIF, and that farmers should resume talks with the government on issues other than repeal is indeed ironic.
When the Modi government stands by its pro-corporate agriculture laws which undermine the whole legal framework of the APMC market yards with the aim of collapsing them, merely allowing APMCs to access some more loans is an empty gesture. In the six months during which the three farm laws were in operation before the Supreme Court suspended them, the trade in most APMC market yards collapsed by almost half and their revenues dropped drastically. The centre has shown that it has no commitment to build and expand the public market and storage infrastructure for the benefit of small farmers, and has set upon facilitating the Adanis, Walmart and Reliance to build private markets, storage and processing facilities.
It is well known that the Gautam Adani conglomerate is the dominant multinational corporation in this sphere. Adani already has control over one-third of India's port volumes. It has recently tied up with Flipkart/Walmart to create the country's largest warehousing facility for the e-commerce giant. Adani Agri Logistics Limited (AALL) has signed an exclusive service agreement with the Food Corporation of India. It is worth noting that Adani’s base depots are declared as notified ‘market yards’. AALL is the largest player with 45 per cent market share in modern agri storage infrastructure in the country. Meanwhile, Adani Wilmar is an entity into food processing. The corporation's ambitions to dominate the food supply chains are notorious.
The PIB recently put out a press release by the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution with regard to procurement by government agencies. This is also a well-crafted spin. The procurement of wheat, while it is a record in the country, is only around 39.6 per cent of the total wheat output in the country. In several states, farmers got prices that were much lower than the MSP. The Modi government made no mention of the looting of farmers by market forces, when they are outside the procurement regime coverage.
Only 16.85 per cent of Uttar Pradesh wheat output was procured, only 8.18 per cent of Bihar's, and only 4.8 per cent of Gujarat's. In other states it was even less. Farmers from whom the government did not procure, and who had to deal with the exploitative markets in these states experienced a loot of over Rs 1000 crore during March to June 2021 (rabi marketing season 2021-22). And this is in a crop where some procurement is done by the government, concentrated in a few states. In most other crops, there is no procurement at all. Here is where the demand of the farmers' movement for a legally guaranteed MSP for all farmers for all commodities comes in.