Farm Law protest: Opposition protesting for sake its existence?

Sanjay Raut

Even after endorsing the farm bills in Parliament, the Shiv Sena said farmers’ call for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on Tuesday is apolitical and people of the country should willingly take part in it to express support to cultivators.

Apart from the Shiv Sena, the NCP and Congress – two other constituents of the ruling Maha-Vikas-Aghadi in Maharashtra – have declared support to the bandh, demanding the repeal of the Centre’s new agri-marketing laws.

The Sena Rajya Sabha member, Sanjay Raut said that people should willingly take part in the bandh. This will show true support to the farmers. This is not a political bandh though several parties have decided to take part in it. “This is not the bandh for raising demands of a political party, but to strengthen the voice of farmers of the country,” the Rajya Sabha member justified.

Surprisingly, the NCP supremo Sharad Pawar wrote letters to then Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, when he was union minister for Agriculture, asking chief ministers to amend the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act in their states to allow the private sector to play an important role in the field. However, now Pawar as well as his party are opposing the bill.

Similarly, the Congress in its election manifesto said that it would bring corporate houses in agriculture sector so that farmers should get fair deal in their produces. Now both are attacking the Modi government on the bill that was adopted in both the houses of Parliament.

The NCP has issued a clarification on Monday after controversy erupted over letters written by party chief and claimed that the model APMC act 2003 was introduced by the Vajpayee government. However many state governments were reluctant to implement it at that point of time. Pawar after assuming charge as the Union Agriculture Minister tried to form a broader consensus amongst State Agriculture Marketing Boards by inviting suggestions for the implementation of the said act.

But the NCP forgot that the Congress-NCP government had also introduced corporate farming in many places in Maharashtra. The contractual farming was also recommended during UPA government and several state governments have implemented contract farming in their states. Surprisingly, many of these states were Congress ruled states. Under the provisions of contract farming, farmer’s land can neither be leased, nor sold nor mortgaged. There will be no obligation related to their land and the contract will be related to sale of produce only. These realities should be understood by the Opposition.

The NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said workers of the Sharad Pawar-led party will join the shutdown by observing social distancing norms. Maharashtra minister and senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan said everyone should participate in the bandh to support farmers who have been agitating over the past fortnight in biting cold in Delhi. Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) leader Prakash Ambedkar has also supported the bandh. “The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi will take part in the agitation tomorrow,” Ambedkar tweeted.

Politicians and social thinkers should understand that the Firm Bills are part of the Modi government’s commitment to double the farmers’ income and follow its credo of minimum government and maximum governance. They are designed to free the farmers from the hold of government controlled markets. The Opposition and a section of intelligentsia have raised the fear that Bill will compromise on food security. They must know the Food Corporation of India will continue to stock essential commodities such as wheat and rice, ensuring that India’s food security isn’t hit. Also, traditional mandis will stay. The proposed pieces of legislation will only remove trade barriers and allow digital trading of farm produce.

Moreover, a lot of misinformation is being spread about the Minimum Support. A fear psychosis is being created amongst farmers by telling them that with the passage of the Bills, MSP will be done away with. However, the PM Modi and the Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar have repeatedly been assured that MSP will stay. Those opposing the bills have either not read them or are just worried that an empowered farmer doesn’t fit into their scheme of vote bank politics.

Agriculture sector badly needs high-end technologies, digital tools, entrepreneurs and farmer organisations to provide services to farmers. In view of these, if corporate sector comes whats harm?

By protesting against the Bills, the Congress and other opposition parties are desperately rejuvenating their organisations but weather farmers would get benefits from it? The Tuesday protest is also seen just in order to score political mileage by the Congress, NCP, Sena and other opposition parties.

** M Charulata