25
Nov

Farmer Protest: Year

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 365

Toll 680

Year

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 …

23
Nov

Farmers Protest: MSP Laws

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 363

Toll 675

MSP Law

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.

22
Nov

Farmers Protest: Modi

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

 

Posted November 21, 2021

Day 361

Toll 672

Modi

At this stage of the farmers protest, Modi’s announcing the government’s intention to repeal the three draconian farm Laws seems to be the best development to energize the protests.

Frankly, last few weeks, with the harvest and sowing season, many protesting farmers and labour had returned home. SKM had appealed to them to return. The return was slow. The announcement has served as a new current which has energised the batteries worn over a year.

Many friends of the protest have been advising farmers to treat Modi’s announcement with caution, not vacate the protest until the Parliament actually repeals the laws.

The farmers are aware. In my experience, I see no set of people more repeatedly betrayed by governments than the farmers. Everytime the farmers protest, if governments agree to demands, they dither on fulfilling them or just do not fulfill them. Political parties habitually announce sops and policies for farmers in elections and when elected do not implement them.

That is why farmers won’t step back until the laws are actually repealed and a framework to implement MSP is worked upon. We must note that while laws were a spin on a stressed agrarian system, implementation of MSP can open a door out of agrarian distress.

The good thing this time is that a stunned mainstream media, whose rug under the feet Modi has pulled, will not harangue the protesters. The protesters will not have to defend their position. The public perception is now firmly with the protests.

In every village in Panjab, Haryana, west Uttar Pradesh, people are raring to reach Delhi on November 26th to mark one year of protests.

Tomorrow is a Kisan Mahapanchayat in Lucknow. After their stock taking meeting yesterday, SKM has decided to continue with their limited Parliament March to Delhi during the winter session of the Parliament.

The Parliament March starts on November 29th. 500 farmers will March everyday through the session to Delhi on tractors and bullock carts. I love the symbolism of bullock carts against a propaganda machinery supported through satellites.

Kabir says: jeet nishan ghuraunga – I shall mark my victory. The farmers too will do that.

Dear Friends,

On BBC World News, last evening. 5.18 mins, English.

Please listen here …

 

Dear Friends,

my piece in The Wire on Modi announcing yesterday that the government will repeal the draconian Farm Laws. I argue that if BJP intended to use Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary to win Panjab over, they might be disappointed. Farmers believe the victory is through their tireless efforts, Baba Nanak’s blessings and not through the Sangh which carries itself as the arbitrator of religion.

Thank you Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty for the invite to publish. Please read here …

19
Nov

Farmers Protest: People’s Victory

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 359

Toll 671

People’s Victory

Gurpurb Greetings to all. In a landmark announcement this morning PM Modi announces the repeal of the three draconian Farm Laws.

This is the result of farmers’ tireless struggle. This is a declaration of the victory of the farmers’ protest which in a few days completes a year on Delhi’s borders. The struggle was unprecedented in a country where we are so cynical about political parties, the erosions of systems of the state, even the judiciary. The farmers and labour, old and young, women and men, bore immense assault by the weather, a propaganda machinery by the government. Personally, as I discovered greater ramifications – IMF and WTO backing, Agristack – in moments of doubt, I looked at the eyes of the elder generation to find my strength.

Finally, they prevailed. A victory has been handed to us, let us accept it in all humility. In this nation’s recent history, the erosion of its systems, this is unprecedented. The message is: any set of people, any group, any one who feels oppressed by the government needs to stand up to the powers. Each of us can win. As I type this note, Labour Codes, the Citizenship Amendment Act, the targeting of women, of Dalits, of Adivasis, come to mind.

The fact is, in his entire public life, Modi has never taken back a single decision. Now he has done that. May this open doors for many active resistances. This is a turning point and civil society now has a glorious example to seize the opportunity. We need a million resistances to sustain our nation. May we have the strength to cultivate the solidarities we need to reclaim democracy for the people of the country.

As of now, from PM’s speech, it is clear the laws will be repealed through due democratic process in the Parliament by end of the month. There is mention of Minimum Support Price but not much clarity on it. There are many other issues that affect the agrarian sector that need urgent attention, including fuel price rise, procurement of grains and vegetables – basically 50 years of agrarian neglect in policies. In due course, I sincerely hope, all those issues are addressed.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha has welcomed this decision and will wait for the announcement to take effect through due parliamentary procedures. SKM also reminds the Prime Minister that the agitation of farmers is not just for the repeal of the three black laws, but also for a statutory guarantee of remunerative prices for all agricultural produce and for all farmers. This important demand of farmers is still pending. So also is the withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill. SKM will take note of all developments, hold its meeting soon and announce further decisions.

Bowing my head to the martyrs of this struggle, may Baba Nanak’s blessings continue to shower on all of us.

Maktoob Media has been kind to publish this piece on their website. See here …

 

 

19
Nov

Farmers Protest: Voila

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Day 357

Toll 669

Voila

Please tell me how do I make sense of how the ‘powers that be’ treat Panjab?

- For years it is straw & smoke, then voila: all clear.

- For months it is pandemic & terrorists, then voila: Kartarpur corridor.

- For a year Centre does not listen to protests, then voila: CM agrees to all demands.

- For a decade there has been no money, treasury empty, then voila: temporary & contractual employees to be regulated.

- For two decades colleges are running on roughly half strength of lecturers, then voila: we shall hire, test scheduled.

There are many more instances but can anyone tell me why there is not even a semblance of governance in Panjab?

It is through such adhocism, whims and fancies, feudal behaviour that the ‘powers that be’ repeatedly assert how they do not believe in due process, in improving people’s lot, in fact, in democracy.

16
Nov

Farmers Protest: Pollution

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Day 355

Toll 665

Pollution

Today in the Supreme Court on the matter of Delhi air pollution, the Centre admitted Panjab and paddy stubble burning is a minor polluter. This is a huge validation for farmers. See story.

This is exactly what farmers, farmer unions, have been saying for years. Now you see why the SKM put the fourth demand of farmers on Air Pollution Laws. This is what I said in my book as well.

Will now the media that has spent billions of bytes, people outside Panjab who have sent billions of curses, even acknowledge they were wrong? Even admit it?

In fact, the reverse should happen: all farmers should be paid for growing oxygen when they grow food, in two-three cycles each year.

16
Nov

Farmers Protest: Puranpur

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 354

Toll 665

Puranpur

Yesterday morning when we checked, there were plenty rooms available at Pilibhit. When we arrived last night, not one hotel showed rooms available. It was not that media had taken over but most likely administration had barred hotels from giving out rooms. We got place in a marriage palace. Internet signal is very poor.

Here are pictures of the stage at the Nyay Mahapanchayat – Puranpur, Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh.