19
Apr

Farmers Protest: Shameless

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 145

Toll 386

#FarmersProtest

Shameless

While the nation is burning up in coronavirus flames, I read news of cremation on footpaths, the government remains unrelenting in its arrogance.

Yesterday, in Hisar in Haryana, the police lathi charged and detained 8 farmers protesting peacefully against assembly deputy speaker Ranbir Gangwa and BJP leader Sonali Phogat.

Today, the farmers in Hisar broke barricades to show black flags and raise slogans against state agriculture minister JP Dalal.

This is how the government celebrates Ambedkar Jayanti.

17
Apr

Farmers Protest: Storm at Protest Sites

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 143

Toll 376

#FarmersProtest

Storm at Protests

Last evening, around 7 pm, I called a friend in Delhi. He said a storm has just ended – dust, rain, strong winds. For a moment, I forgot the farmers and asked him if he was fine. He said yes, he is home. Safe.

As soon as the call ended and I looked at the computer, the effect of the storm on the protest sites was clear. Many tents had been uprooted, water had entered habitations, farmers’ meagre belongings were soaked in water.

Add to this the harvest period in north India. Once again the shortage of gunny sacks. The confusion that the government’s insistence on Direct Bank Transfer is creating, arthiyas are forced to seek guarantees for payments against collection of grains. Seems in India, the farmers are perpetually in the eye of storms.

Yet, there is quite a literal storm building – rumours of a government’s proposed Operation Clean to end the protests forcefully citing the rising COVID-19 numbers in the country. There is news that the Centre is entrusting the Operation to the Haryana government. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha has yesterday said that these are rumours and farmers must not panic. This could be psychops – psychological tactics.

The fact is, no one knows. We now know we cannot put anything past this government. Actually, we can never put anything past any government. In 1984, no one expected the Army to invade the Darbar Sahib premises. Yet, it did. Operation Blue Star took place. Heavens forbid an armed action takes place this time – it would be severely counter-productive.

The question is: does the government care? Has the government cared about how the pandemic has hit India this time? Over the last year, the government had enough time to ramp up medical infrastructure, it did not. Now we are running short of vaccines, testing kits, PPEs, hospital beds, crematoriums. The government remains busy trying to win Bengal elections.

The greatest storm is in the heart of the citizens of this nation. What do we do? We can’t keep blaming nature alone for storms and rains and scorching heat and pandemics. There has to be accountability by those we elect to govern us. This accountability seems to have blown in storms in the last seven years. There is not even a squeak from media asking any legitimate questions to the government and people are outraging on social media. This is collapse of a system. This is breakdown of that single sense that keeps selves, communities, nations going – trust in the system. The sense that gives us the feeling of being safe.

Meanwhile, post-harvest, thousands of farmers are arriving soon on Delhi’s borders. Armed eviction, if it happens, will cost the government a lot. But the blood, hope it does not spill, will be on all our hands.

 

16
Apr

Farmers Protest: Fire at Singhu

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 142

Toll 374

#FarmersProtest

Fire at Singhu

As the nation burns in the flames of Coronavirus, reports emerge of multiple bodies being consigned to one pyre, crematoriums being hidden from public view, yesterday a fire took place at the Singhu border.

Having braved the chilly winters, one of the coldest in decades, the untimely winter rains that turned tents and mattresses soggy, the protesting farmers had now remodelled their protest sites for the scorching summer. They have made habitations of wood and straw, synthetic nets and placed desert coolers and refrigerators. All of these are immensely combustible, the sites are now literal tinder boxes.

As previously reported, right-wing saboteurs continue to invade the protests sites. For recce to assess how to sabotage the protests, for theft, for inciting violence, for bringing infamy upon the protesters. In spite of farmer vigilance, yesterday an unknown person set tents on fire near Rasoi Dhabha. Reports vary but at least three tents, a car, many personal belongings went up in fire. Thankfully, no one was severely injured. There were no casualties.

The fire brigade arrived too late. By then the youth had doused the flames. The larger question union leaders are raising is why is fire brigade not available on site? Why isn’t the government taking steps to provide safety measures on the sites? Of course, the largest question is why isn’t the government repealing the laws and ending the protest?

On Ambedkar Jayanti, the Haryana CM had announced the unveiling of a Babasaheb Ambedkar statue at village Badauli. The farmers opposed the CM inaugurating the statue. They were fine with anyone else inaugurating the statue. Quietly, the CM cancelled the event. On April 14, all protest sites celebrated Babasaheb Ambedkar. A few days back Hanumangarh parliamentarian Nihal Chand ran away from facing people in Rajasthan. Amidst whatever little reports we get on the current reality of India, no media reports the groundswell against the BJP. How long will this chimera last?

Meanwhile, as COVID-19 rages through the nation, the government’s only focus seems to be Bengal elections. There are reports that the government has completed an aerial survey of the protest sites. Once the government is done with Bengal elections, it may propose talks with farmers. If the talks fail, there could be armed action to evict farmers.

Day 139

Toll 367

#FarmersProtest

Dear Friends,

three days back, MAJHA HOUSE hosted a discussion on the deaths at the ongoing farmer protests. Quite honestly, I was struck by the manner in which archival activist Anuroop Kaur Sandhu spoke about her work over the last many months.

Dr Simmi Waraich supported us with her analysis and commentary. Other mental health workers contributed through commentary. Thank you Preeti Gill and team or all your support.

1.39.44 hours. Do listen!

12
Apr

Farmers Protest: Green Revolution

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

April 12, 2021

Day 138

Toll 365

#FarmersProtest

Green Revolution

Since the beginning of the farmers protests people have asked: why are Panjab and Haryana alone protesting? Now, of course, the protests have spread to west UP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Bihar and Bengal. Yet, the question continues to be posed as an insinuation.

Vandana Shiva has been one of the leading alternative agrarian economists. In her work on after-effects of the Green Revolution in Panjab she had understood and proposed that one of the most dastardly state actions Operation Blue Star and the years of militancy in Panjab had its roots in the early disenchantment with the Green Revolution.

Sadly, over the last many years Shiva has crossed over to the right-wing Hindutva camp. For the moment, let us keep Shiva’s individual politics aside. In this excerpt, Shiva once again traces Panjab’s rising to protests now and before Operation Blue Star to the Green Revolution which she says was a deliberate making of a genocide.

In ‘Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines’, I saw current Panjab as an aftermath of both the Green Revolution and Operation Blue Star. I learnt that the two were linked but unlike Shiva – perhaps through hindsight for I came many years after her – I traced three reasons for Operation Blue Star: law and order, separatist threat, farmers’ protest. The context being Akali resistance to Indira Gandhi’s Emergency that had got her riled up with Sikhs, the river waters issue that had been pending since re-organisation of Panjab in 1966, the Anandpur Sahib Resolution and so on.

Listen to the video. English, 9.56 minutes.

11
Apr

Farmers Protest: SC Committee Report

   Posted by: aman   in Other

April 11, 2021

Day 137

Toll 363

#FarmersProtest

SC Committee Report

Today morning, at 8 am, the 24-hour blockade of Western Peripheral Highway around Delhi ended. All night the farmers were on a vigil. While the farmers continue their vigil, I wonder where is the government who needs to be awake.

On January 11, the Supreme Court appointed a Committee to look into the Farm Laws. It was peopled by pro-laws advocates: Bhupinder Singh Mann, National President, Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee; Dr. Parmod Kumar Joshi, Agricultural Economist, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute; Ashok Gulati, Agricultural Economist and Former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices; Anil Ghanwat, President, Shetkari Sanghatana.

Among these, to be charitable, Mann had used his BKU leverage to get nominated to Rajya Sabha in 1990. Like many activists he might have thought that instead of opposing the system, he must get inside the system and change it from within. It is the same with the founder of Ghanwat’s union. From mass agitations Sharad Joshi became a supporter of World Trade Organisation and got elected to Parliament. He even tabled a private member’s Bill to delete the term ‘socialism’ from the Preamble of the Constitution. Of course, these tactics never worked – today farmers stand opposed to the Laws passed in Parliament. In the last two decades the agriculture sector crises has deepened.

Suspecting the pro-laws bias of the Committee members, the farmer unions had announced they will not follow the Committee proposals. Fearing social boycott, Mann recused himself from the Committee. On March 19, after 12 rounds of meetings both online and offline with various stakeholders, claimed to be 85 groups – farmers, farmer producers organisations, procurement agencies, professionals, academicians, private as well as state agriculture marketing boards – and 11 internal meetings, the Committee submitted its report to the Supreme Court in a sealed envelope.

It has now been three weeks. Not a word from the Supreme Court; not a word from the government. For perspective, On March 19 the death toll in farmers protests was 308. On March 19, the Covid cases were 40,906, deaths were 188. Today the death toll in farmers protest is 363. The total Covid cases are 1,52,565 and deaths are 838.

Where is the government?

The government is greedily busy electioneering in Bengal. It is trying to win yet one more territory.

To do what?

To sell it. I really wonder about those who naively, blindly believe this government stands even an iota for development, to safeguard our nation. How pathetic is that support!

What will happen with the SC Committee Report? Chief Justice of India SA Bobde is due to retire on April 23. He has recommended Justice NV Ramana to be appointed as the next CJI.

Remember in October 2020, the Andhra Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s had cast aspersions on the next CJI in a letter leaked to the press. He had accused the next CJI of being close to former Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu and against him. He had raised issues with Amaravati land allotment and so on.

Of course, the Supreme Court had stood by its Judge and not admitted the petition. But this is indicative of why the farmer unions do not trust the Supreme Court and its Committees.

Meanwhile, the farmer vigil and protest continues.

 

9
Apr

Discussion on Farmers Protests

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Dear friends,

about three weeks back, a group named We Support Our Farmers hosted a panel discussion on the ground situation of the famers protests and the continuing urban apathy.  It was an interesting discussion.

Please see here …

Tags: , , , ,

9
Apr

Farmers Protest: Direct Bank Transfer

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

April 09, 2021

Day 135

Toll 361

#FarmersProtest

DBT

The Direct To Bank scheme to deposit subsidies and payments directly to beneficiaries was started by the Congress-led UPA government in 2013. It was considered revolutionary as it dramatically cut down middle men and contractors. Now DBT is implemented in up to 317 schemes from 53 ministries. I do not know how the payment route works in all these schemes and ministries. I would love to learn. If you know, please comment.

For the last few years the BJP government has tried to apply this route to make payments on food grains the FCI or other agencies buy from the farmers. In theory, it looks good. Yet, Panjab and Haryana governments – states that have the best Agricultural Produce Market Committee in Asia, if not the world – opposed it. Tt is these APMCs or Mandis that are under direct attack through the Farm Laws.

The reasons to oppose are two:

a) this route of payment side lines the arthiyas – commission agents. Arthiyas are more than commission agents. In the absence of a system by which farmers or farm labour can procure easy, instant loans from co-operative banks or other institutional sources, the arthiyas actually act as the pivot to the agrarian system.

b) given the fact that agriculture is not remunerative, typically a small or marginal farmer takes a few acres of land on rent every season against fixed payment to owner whether the crop succeeds or fails. About 45 per cent land in Panjab is given out on rent and farmed by non-owners. The DBT payment will go to the absent farmers (owners) and not to real farmers (who have taken land on rent).

Until yesterday, the two state governments were opposing the Centre’s push to move to DBT. Yet, when Centre threatened to not procure the wheat this season unless DBT is implemented, the two governments – one Congress, another BJP – capitulated. Panjab is expected to produce 130 metric tonnes of wheat and Haryana 121 metric tonnes. MSP is Rs 1975 per quintal.

This is a blow to the system that has been in existence for the past many decades. No doubt, the system has issues, including how much margin commission agents draw and absentee landlordism. The need is to fix the whole system and not drop DBT from top. The need is for state (and Centre) governments to create a better system and support the farmers’ transition to that system but they failed in averting the DBT from affecting the small and marginal farmers who take land on rent. The move is insidious because when land owners are directly paid, small and marginal farmers will stop taking land on rent and will become labour in lands that are not their own.

It is because of reasons such as these, that the protesting farmers cannot trust either the state or the Centre to protect them and need to continue to protest. Tomorrow, from 8 am, the Western Peripheral Highway around Delhi will be blocked for 24 hours.

5
Apr

Farmers Protest: FCI

   Posted by: aman   in Other

April 05, 2021

Day 131

Toll 351

#FarmersProtest

FCI

What can be more dramatic and ironical for a nation than its government trying to sell or close its institutions and its people fighting to preserve them? Before you come up with some neo-liberal, free market, spiel consider that neither the health sector nor the education sector has benefitted from neo-liberalism. All that has happened in the last 30 years is we have learnt to read English, put our children into private schools, admit ourselves into private hospitals, juggle finances with insurance companies.

India is 94th on the World Hunger Index out of 117 countries. India has 67 per cent people who depend on rations available from the Public Distribution System procured by the Food Corporation of India. In the last 5 years, under this government, the FCI’s total debt has zoomed to Rs 2.65 lakh crore in March 2019, up from Rs 91,409 crore in March 2014 — an increase of nearly three times. By now, even more!

In this period the government has waived off loans worth Rs 8 lakh crore for corporates. Understand the chronology: by changing the procurement rules, the debt-laden FCI, completely dependent on government funding, is being pushed to not buy grains from farmers. This will lead to closure of FCI. This will lead to the collapse of the PDS system. The rations to poor will stop. In 2015 itself, over 2 crore children in the country were malnourished. About 40 per cent children 0-5 years were stunted in their growth. This is structural violence by the government – to make us a sick, weak society.

The Amendment to the Essential Commodities Act which allows one, just one, corporate house to store unlimited quantities of food. Adani already has a capacity to store 8 lakh tonnes and is rapidly building more warehouses. In a few years, the whole nation will depend on Adani for food and struggle with artificially inflated prices.

Today the farmers led by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha are protesting the eventual closure of FCI. The farmers are fighting for the nation’s food security. If you cannot see it, blame your private education, your sold out media but worry very deeply about what will your children eat in a few years. Ask yourselves if the next generation should become slaves to the corporate where they will have no say or if we should we all not fight to preserve democracy – the institutions of the state.

3
Apr

Farmers Protest: Alleged

   Posted by: aman   in Other

April 03, 2021

Day 129

Toll 346

#FarmersProtest

Alleged

Last evening news came that some youth had attacked Rakesh Tikait and his convoy in Tatarpura village, Alwar, Rajasthan. At that time, Tikait was returning to Bansur from Harsoli village after a Mahapanchayat. Tikait was unhurt.

Almost all media has reported the incident using the word ‘alleged’. As if on cue, the entire right-wing eco-system has commented that this was not a real attack. It was a staged one. This in spite of the fact that the SUV in which attackers came has been identified as owned by ABVP student leader Kuldip Rao, the student union president Raj Rishi Bharthari Matsya University and police has taken 4 people into custody.

Let us look again at the word ‘alleged’. At the literal level, the use of the word ‘alleged’ shows that media has no way of saying that the attack really happened. Now, look at the two parties involved in this incident. On the one side are farmers who have been on the roads protesting the Laws for more than four months. On the other is a government which has failed to deliver in the last seven years.

That is why the assault on Tikiat – we do not even know if it was approved by BJP high command or a local adventure to score brownie points – is not an assault on Tikait alone but on our sensibility of what is true and what is false. If we can’t say what is true and what is not, how do we trust? If we can’t trust, how do we intake what farmers produce with the sense that it will nourish us, keep us healthy?

Frankly, to me the attack is not a surprise. For over two months now, I have been wondering how can the draconian regime allow the rise of a figure like Tikait. I have been listening to Tikait’s speeches for months. A few months back I even met him. I am seeing how he has moved from one who spoke in riddles to one who now speaks straight, presents the larger dimensions of issues he raises, gives direct calls to action.

I see how Tikait’s growth and certitude must have rattled Yogi, if not Modi. I have been wondering how the regime is allowing it. The regime has allowed it exactly through the media use of the term ‘alleged’. By sowing doubts in our minds. That is why I believe, the protests and our solidarity for them is a matter of faith – of belief. It is not alleged support, it is our full support.

The right-wing should really learn to come back to talks pending for over two months, to repeal the Laws, to form a committee on MSP with promise to implement them. Else, these small attacks, these provocations, will only aggravate the protesters.

In fact, that is the plan. The government wants one angry response, one mis-step, so it can crackdown on us.