Farmers Return

HUNDREDS of farmers from different reached Delhi on Monday to participate in a ‘mahapanchayat’ called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha at Jantar Mantar, forcing the union government to beef up security at Delhi borders, including Singhu and Ghazipur. The farmer organizations have been demanding proper implementation of minimum support price (MSP) for crops. They have also sought the withdrawal of cases registered against the farmers during their year-long protest against the farm laws. Earlier on Sunday, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait was detained by the police at the Ghazipur border as he tried to enter the national capital to take part in the ‘mahapanchayat’. One of the farmers’ main demand is a legal guarantee for MSP. Rising unemployment is also one of the major issues. They are also seeking removal of the union minister Ajay Kumar Mishra whose son is an accused in the violence that took place last year in October in which four farmers and a journalist were among eight people killed. In addition, farmers are also demanding the withdrawal of cases against the protesters last year.

In November last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew the three controversial laws following a  year-long protest by the farmers against. Modi said the Acts were in the best interests of the nation and targeted to benefit large and small farmers, but it appeared the government had not been able to convince a section of the farmers and therefore, they were being withdrawn. The prime minister also promised that a committee of state and central representatives, farmers, and experts would be set up to make the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism more transparent and effective.

The protest was against the three farm laws: Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. While the centre  defended the laws as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country, the farmers contended that the legislations would eliminate the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the “mandi” system. They also feared that the laws would bring on the scene the corporates who would monopolize the trade and feel empowered to determine the market prices.

As the renewed farmer protests indicate, the farmers are not happy and remain skeptical about the government’s intentions to meet their demand, especially the legal guarantee on MSP. It remains to be seen how the government responds to the fresh protests.  The best course for it would be to engage the farmers and take firm steps to address their demands, something the government has already agreed to.

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