Archive for the ‘Other’ Category


Farmers Protest: Centre

   Posted by: aman

Day 374

Toll 710
- Punjab 609; Haryana 75; Uttar Pradesh 6


We still do not know what all led to the prime minister unilaterally, without discussion even with his cabinet, announcing the repeal of laws. It could be BJP’s reading that the farm laws lacked popular support, the laws will impact Uttar Pradesh elections, its image because protest sustained despite all efforts by the government to break them, international pressure and so on. Subsequent to PM Modi’s announcement, the cabinet passed the decision, the Parliament repealed the laws, now the President has given his consent. This is indeed a huge win for the farmers, labourers, all parties sympathetic with the protest.

Yet, how the last two weeks have gone by, it is clear that the government still does not intend to listen to the farmers. While the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has unambiguously stated its position on six other matters, the government has displayed a piecemeal approach and not engaged with the farmers.

On the issues, while the government has decriminalised paddy straw burning, it has listed the Electricity Bill in the Parliament. While state governments have stated they will listen to Centre on the cases filed on many score thousand people, the Centre is silent on the issue – even about Delhi and Chandigarh which it governs. Ajay Mishra Teni continues as central minister and the government does not even recognise the 710 martyrs of the protests.

The Centre has made noises on Minimum Support Price, tried to deflect the issue to states, is ambiguous on Terms of Reference, farmers participation, and timeline to implement MSP. While other issues are Yes/No, we all understand that, given India’s immense diversity and cropping patterns, implementing MSP is a complex process. Making a law on guaranteed MSP is even more complex, though in my opinion necessary.

As of now, the government’s message is clear: while it has had to bow down on the farm laws, it wants to keep waters muddy and is resorting to its usual tactic – apathy and disengagement. Right from bottom to top, this is a government that shirks accountability. It will go to any extent to not deal with a situation and create distraction.

Inside the protest sites it is natural that the cadre and the many unions have different opinions. While some want to continue protesting, many who have lived on the roads for a year are also exhausted and want to return home. The message of the protest, the need for MSP has reached far and wide and there are clear indications that country-wide the farmers will continue questioning the government. The question being: does the government of India, the keeper of our tax payers money, want to stay a broker and write off huge loans by industry or does it also want to invest in rural India and rejuvenate the economy?

Given this background, SKM meets today. It is a critical meeting because SKM will decide its future course of action. We need to wait for the decision but do know: even from before Day 1, this is a protest led by the cadre, not the leaders. Ultimately, the will of the people will prevail. I hope SKM reads the ground well.


Farmers Protest: Toll

   Posted by: aman

Day 372

Toll 690


Yesterday, in the august Parliament, the nation’s agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said, his ministry has no record of those who have died at the farmers protest in the last one plus year. The question is: does the home ministry also not have any record? Does the government also have no record?

This is just like an RTI a few weeks back revealed the government has no record of the 11 rounds of discussion between farmers and government. Or the government said earlier there have been no deaths due to lack of oxygen in the pandemic second wave.

In fact, in these protests, one of the greatest documentation has been of the deaths at the protest. I say this because when we look at history, often numbers of dead in major events remain ambiguous. Many a times the state version differs massively from the people’s number. This time anyway the state number is 0 so in history the people’s number will prevail.

According to record keeping, through various sources – information in newspapers, through farmers unions, through individual reporting – checked and verified against each version, as on now the toll stands at 690.

In the last winters, the average was 2.3. In summers, in spite of pandemic which saw no special spike in toll, the average was 2.1. In the lean months of the protests, the numbers fell and now the average is 1.8.

All this documentation has been possible because of the efforts of primarily Anu Sandhu, supported by Amar Mander, Jai Singh Sandhu, Harender Happy, and Sajneet Mangat. Anuroop updates the blog mentioned below roughly once a week. Each entry in the blog mentions Name, Domicile, Occupation, Date of Death, Age, Cause of death, Place of death, and if possible name of Union.

This data is painstakingly vetted, duly noted and sacrosanct. It can be verified. It isn’t easy to have your mobile phone gallery full of pictures of the dead, it is very difficult to revisit deaths each day. Yet, the team persisted. I salute the diligence and meticulousness of the team that has created this record.

I know there have been numbers like 750 and 700 going around. If anyone has details of numbers over 690, please share them with Anuroop or Amar. But do check your information and make certain it is not already entered in the blog.

If the government is interested, it can cross-check this data and provide compensation to those we have lost in the protest.

Question is: is the government is interested at all? If the government is not interested, are the people of this country interested in paying homage to those who died breaching the wall of Hindutva, forcing the government to retract?

Blog link here …


Farmers Protest: Terms of Reference

   Posted by: aman

Day 371

Toll 690

Terms of Reference

After the formal but undemocratic repeal of farm laws and some other demands being met, the issue of Minimum Support Price stands. The government has announced a committee to look into MSP and invited five Samyukt Kisan Morcha leaders to be part of it.

However, SKM says they are not clear on what would be the mandate and Terms of Reference of such a committee. Text book stuff: when any panel or committee is set up, the Terms of Reference need to be defined. The dictionary describes Terms of Reference as ‘the instructions given to someone when they are asked to consider or investigate a particular subject, telling them what they must deal with and what they can ignore’.

The reason I called the repeal undemocratic is because they were repealed as swiftly as they were implemented. In 8 minutes, without any discussion. In fact, if you notice PM Modi’s announcement to repeal on November 19th, it was done without the union cabinet clearance. The cabinet clearance came later. Through all these events – announcement, clearance, formal repeal – one aspect is clear: the government does not care and does not want to follow due democratic protests.

But then there are people, the protesting farmers, who are keen that a duly elected government follow democratic process. Hence the insistence on Terms of Reference of the committee of MSP. Let the government lay down the mandate in unmistakeable terms.

I sense that would be an uphill task for the government because no Sangh shakha has trained them for rigour, for due diligence, and to abide by the Constitution. In fact, the very raison d’etre of this government and its actions show they do not care for rules and believe a brute majority is reason enough to indulge in their fancies.

But the farmers are infinitely wise. They know how to de-weed their fields. They are now demonstrating their skills by asking the government to demonstrate its intention – a case where the people are teaching the government how to govern.

Herein is another lesson for democracy.


Farmers Protest: History

   Posted by: aman

Day 369

Toll 686


Last year when farmers left Panjab for Delhi, were supported by Haryana, broke barriers and served langar to police, their resolve on Farm Laws was clear: Yes or No. Every one who was part of the protests was clear they were going to push the government to take back the draconian laws.

Yet, we all know, the ask was too much. The push back was a major challenge to the Hindutva strong arm politics which the country had suffered last six years. Plus there was the knowledge that PM Modi had never taken back any law in his whole life. This government position was matched by the resolve of the protesters that brought an extra spark to their eyes.

In the rest of India some supported the protests, some criticised the protests, others hemmed and hawed. All waited with baited breath for the outcome of this non-violent confrontation between powers and people. The year was tumultuous, to say the least.

In north India, especially Panjab, the narrative invoked an earlier resistance towards the British bringing in draconian laws. In 1906, the British brought the Doab Bari Water Tax and Punjab Colonization Act, riding on the unpopular Punjab Land Alienation Act implemented in 1901. These new laws were intended to make farming difficult for the farmers of the Canal colonies and force them to surrender their lands to the British. We can see the parallels between those laws by British 115 years back with the new Farm Laws.

When the British implemented their draconian laws, Sardar Ajit Singh along with Kishan Singh, (Bhagat Singh’s father), Ghasita Ram, Sufi Amba Prasad and others rallied the farmers in Lyallpur against the British. Banke Dayal, editor of Jang Syal weekly gave the slogan ‘Pagri Sambhal Jutta’ which was part of his longer poem. Finally, the protesters won and the British had to take back their anti-people laws. Similarly, in 1922, upon popular uprising, the British were forced to take back the Rowlatt Act, Press Act and other laws.

The nature of power never changes. Power is based on disenfranchising people. People have to resist their eviction. Just like the farmers in 2021 are inspired by the farmers of 1907, may the people in 2121 be inspired by our generation today. The repeal tells us that wrong laws can be pushed back. Even after they are enacted. May this knowledge continue to inspire us.

We will watch history being made again today in the Parliament when the government repeals the draconian Farm Laws. After all, democracy means more power to people. May Pagri Sambhal Jutta be a rallying call for every citizen to live with dignity.

Dear Friends,

upon PM Modi’s announcement to repeal Farm Laws, the farmers protest was validated. Some of us supporters of the protest too came in news. I am touched that Bangalore where I live quite anonymously also noticed my work. My teacher SR Ramakrishna asked his reporter Barkha Kumari to interview me.

Here is the report. Please read …


BBC World Radio interview on Farmers Protest

   Posted by: aman

Dear Friends,

on November 27th evening BBC World Radio interviewed me on the latest developments in the farmers protest. Since it was radio, it was voice only. We used a picture Amandeep took of me recording. The bulb is retro.

Thank you Gurshamshir Singh for mixing picture with audio. 5.14 minutes. English.

Please listen here …


Farmers Protests: Laws

   Posted by: aman

Day 367

Toll 685


Yesterday, thousands gathered at Tikri, Bahadurgarh, Singhu, Ghazipur to mark one year of protests and limited win by forcing the government to repeal the draconian Farm Laws. This cheered me immensely. But what cheered me even more was that farmers in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and other states demonstrated their solidarity.

The demonstrations indicate that finally, after one year, Samyukth Kisan Morcha’s message has travelled across the length and breadth of the country. India’s agriculture is diverse, it is based on local conditions. Yet, all of it suffers the same neglect by the policies of the country. Farmers in different regions have their particular issues and it is a great sign for democracy that they are articulating both the common SKM demands for Minimum Support Price but also local demands, like in Karnataka they are: repeal of recently amended Land Reforms Act, APMC Act and the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Ordinance, 2020.

What do these multiple demonstrations mean? Of course, they are about laws related to agriculture but to me the meaning is deeper. It is about how the Indian society views laws as such. Are laws written in stone or are they meant to ease our living?

All laws are meant to help us live better as a society. While some consider religious laws to be divine or divine inspired and hence unchangeable and that is a separate discussion, human laws are not at all like that. Human laws, for example our Constitution, are man made and are alerted when needed through amendments. Yet, the sense the state and its tool – police and judiciary – give is they are written in stone and hence unmutable.

Through fear and coercion, through threats and jails, the government keeps the populace in check. It does not allow us to assert our freedom, question the laws. For example, a draconian law such as Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is based on the draconian British law the Rowlatt Act. In its time, ordinary people opposed the Rowlatt Act. Jallianwala Bagh massacre happened because British fired upon unarmed Rowlatt Act protesters. But the Indian state has continued with the Act under different names. This shows how power structures perpetuate themselves and are opposed to the needs to people.

Any law, is both the letter of the laws and the spirit of the law. In our country we have noticed over last seven plus decades, while letter of the law is followed to oppress citizens, the state machinery clearly ignores the spirit of the law. The state machinery uses fear to control people. Yesterday’s demonstrations show people have cast aside the shroud of fear in which this regime has sought to bury them over last seven years.

To me yesterday’s huge demonstrations mean our people, especially farmers, who are ignored by city folk as rural, uneducated, have understood the spirit of laws. They are saying: laws are not written in stone. If laws are bad, take them back. They are now demanding repeals and laws which will help them organise their occupation better. May this spirit now transmit to other sections of society: labour, women, Dalits, other oppressed categories. That would be a true celebration of Constitution Day.


Farmer Protest: Year

   Posted by: aman

Day 365

Toll 680


A year back, no one could have known that the digits on the counter on top of this message will complete a whole year. I truly feed proud placing the number as I feel totally crushed placing the number below it.

There are many numbers whose exact figures will never be known: of protesters, of injured, of supporters, of tractors, of cars, of trains, of buses, of tents, of toilets, of langars, of rations, of medical facilities and so on. Never in my life have I known such huge resources marshalled towards one question to the government: Yes or No?

What an inspiration! What a model for the world!

Dear Friends,

Outlookindia recently asked me for my view on the announcement to repeal the draconian farm laws given that farmers have not gone back home.

Here is my piece that talks about what this unilateral decision by PM Modi illustrates: trust deficit in society, dent in Modi’s strongman support to Hindutva eco-system, and finally opportunity for civil society.

‘The most common assertion for this sudden announcement is: it is timed for the Uttar Pradesh and Punjab elections. If that is true, it is half the story. The full story is, the BJP realised, in spite of its vicious attacks, the farmers protest has gained popular support. As the farmers protest prolonged, the right-wing propaganda machinery failed, more people learnt of agrarian distress, they could relate to it through their own impoverishment. The support of the poorer classes, which the BJP took for granted through religious polarisation, is fast vanishing. This erosion goes back to demonetisation, to mismanagement of taxes, the fact that in seven years our economy has tanked and the Sensex has risen multi-fold.’

Thank you Chinki Sinha and Satish Padmanabhan for the invitation. Please read article here …


Farmers Protest: MSP Laws

   Posted by: aman

Day 363

Toll 675


That the farmers have decided not to leave the Morchas even after the PM’s assurance on repeal of draconian farm laws is indicative of the trust deficit in our society. This trust deficit is not new. All parties and governments have contributed to it through false promises and betrayals of promises over the last few decades. However, under the current regime the chasm has opened really wide.

In response to PM’s gesture, SKM has issued a letter to PM, made public to nation. It lists six demands. Among them are Electricity Bill, Air Commission Bill, both promised to not be introduced in Parliament last December 5th in multi-round talks between farmers and government. The government betrayed its verbal assurance. How then will people trust it?

There are demands to withdraw cases on thousands of farmers. In his speech, PM said he is repealing laws ‘in the interest of nation’. That means the laws were not in the interest of nation. Why then are farmers being charged with cases? There is a demand for removal and arrest of Minister of State Home Ajay Mishra Teni, the person behind the Lakhimpur Kheri mowing down of farmers. There is a demand for a permanent memorial to the 675 farmers martyred in the year long protests in the interest of the nation.

The biggest demand is to implement Minimum Support Price on 23 crops to all farmers in the country according to the Swaminathan Commission formula C2+50% proposed in 2007. The government has announced intention to set up a commission to look into the demand. However, there has been a commission already in 2011 headed by then Gujarat CM and now PM Modi. He had himself asked for the MSP formula to be implemented. BJP had promised to implement MSP in its election manifesto 2014. It betrayed its promise.

There are many details to an MSP framework but finally it all boils down to money and whether the government is willing to spend that money for the people of the nation. In short, both the Centre and state governments procure grains. The department of Food and Public Distribution is responsible for ensuring food security through procurement, storage, and distribution of food grains, and for regulating the sugar sector. The Consumer Affairs ministry controls prices of food products and issues MSP rates each season for relevant crops.

According to Punjab Agricultural University, the total money required by Food Corporation of India to pick up stock is about Rs 3 lakh crore per year. Public Distribution System does not exceed Rs 30,000 crore each year. About Rs 1.2 lakh crore is kept as buffer stock. The Central Govt needs to bear half of this cost, rest is on state governments.

Ask yourselves, how hard is it to ear-mark the funds for food? Unlike non-performing corporates and banks with non-performing assets which stand at total Rs 7 lakh crore and the government keeps writing them off, the agrarian sector has always been profitable. Even during the pandemic when all sectors tanked. Actually, the demand for MSP for all farmers all over the country is beyond economics. Food for poor and safeguard to debt-laden impoverished farmers – about 4 lakh farmer and labour suicides in last two decades – is a moral question. As a country we are 101/116 on Global Hunger Index. Our child malnutrition is at above 25 per cent. Our country’s need for food is urgent and can be met if the government implements MSP.

This is a call to ask the government who does it protect: the people of the nation or defaulting crony capitalists? Ask us: why do we elect governments? Why do we pay taxes?

As another winter approaches the protest sites, farmers gear up to keep staying on only to pressure the government, we must note no one is asking the government to implement MSP immediately. The farmers want the government to frame a law on MSP with provision for punishment to those who procure below MSP. The government can then set up a committee to design how the various government departments will work in tandem with each other which can take a few months. The farmers are patient, they can wait, but government needs to act.