What the Bharatiya Janata Party bigwigs are unable to understand is that common farmers have been pushed to such a position that they are at present in no mood to listen to any of their arguments in favour of the three newly legislated farm laws. Even if there are some merits in the new measures hardly anyone is prepared to lend his or her ears.
By accusing the opposition parties, the past governments and the farmer unions the BJP leaders are barking up the wrong tree. In fact, all these exercises are proving counter-productive even in the saffron-ruled states likes Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Because of the government’s stance the farmers are instead hardening their position.
Childish Approach of Some TV Channels
Some of our television reporters are childishly putting the mouth in front of poorly informed farmers to seek their opinion. If they fail to properly answer any question about the new farm laws these journalists would scream: “Look they do not know anything about the government’s move yet they are here.” Some of the media-persons may even allege that they are paid for taking part in this agitation. Such ill-informed and biased TV reporters and anchors as well as their political masters must know that the common masses often know little about any issue for which they take to the streets. This is a global phenomenon, and thus they should stop ridiculing the poor ladies and gentlemen who are agitating in spite of all the personal hardships. It is the leaders who know the real merits or demerits of the issues involved.
It is a historic fact that the common masses take to the streets only when their bare minimum is being denied.
Those sincerely and honestly championing the cause of the government must know that the average farmers have come out not just because the government had passed the three Bills at the express speed during the height of Corona Virus and made them laws. The leaders of the farmers’ unions may be knowing about the future consequences of these measures.
The average farmers are converging to Delhi from across the country, or are agitating at their respective villages and towns largely because they feel that the government has seriously let them down and has not fulfilled any of the past promises.
At the fag end of 2020 these farmers are at least conscious enough to understand that their income is not going to be doubled by 2022 as promised by the same government five or so years back. They are well aware of the fact that the government is not keen on the implementation of Swaminathan Committee recommendation on the Minimum Support Price. It recommended way back in 2006 that the MSP must be at least 50 per cent more than the total cost of production.
The truth is that the real income of farmers has gradually been declining even if the input cost is increasing. The phenomenon of distress sale has instead increased.
Not only the foodgrains and cereal producers are feeling cheated, even those engaged in growing vegetables and fruits as well as dairy business are not getting appropriate prices. Even while the agitations are on in the vicinity of Delhi vegetable growers elsewhere in the country are deeming it fit to feed goats and other cattle with their produces as they are not getting appropriate price.
The news of farmers burning down their farmland and garlic, potato, tomato etc growers dumping their produces are quite common. Those in dairy business had to often throw the thousands of litres of milk in protest.
When this correspondent asked a college lecture with farming background whether he knows something about the new farm laws the reasonably well-read gentleman replied that he has just returned from his village and he knows that whatever be the tall claims of the government the paddy is being bought at the rate of Rs 1,000 per quintal. “We will read the laws later,” he concluded.
This year due to lockdown the miseries of farmers has further multiplied. In various places vegetables were sold at Rs five or 10 per kilo as they could not be transported. Maize was sold at Rs 10 per kilo in big cities while at throwaway prices in the small towns and villages.
Farmers Suspicion About Corona
Whatever may be the government’s warning about the Corona Virus farmers are the one who are now looking at it with suspicion. The television reporters and print media journalists who covered Bihar Assembly election as well as the farmers’ agitation in and around Delhi are surprised by the response of the common masses when asked about the pandemic.
COVID-19 may be a disease but the farmers are now largely seeing it as a government design against them. Similar is the response of workers as the government has taken full opportunity of lockdown to pass ordinances and make laws affecting both the farmers and labours.
(Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna)