Archive for July, 2021

20
Jul

Farmers Protest: Survivor Guilt

   Posted by: aman    in Other, Punjab

Day 237

Toll 543+

Survivor Guilt

Through the pandemic over the last year, especially during the recent second wave, a term became quite popular to talk about our experience – survivor guilt. It is surely a valid and relevant term.

Yesterday Jaspreet Kaur and I were talking about ‘survivor guilt’ and we wondered does it apply to the pandemic alone?

Sure, seems like that.

Else, why would their people – sovereign in their lands and homes – camp outside Delhi like this for the last eight months? Why would their plight not move the nation living under concrete roofs, eating chai pakoras and rotis and daals and subzis, that actually these people produce?

The bitter cold, the winter rains, the scorching heat, the heavy storms, the pelting rains didn’t move the country, the survivor guilt does not really apply. It is actually consumerist apathy.

Video by Randeep S Mdk 45 seconds.

19
Jul

Farmers Protest: Permission Denied

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 236

Toll 543

Permission Denied

We all know the Samyukt Kisan Morcha call for a symbolic protest at the Parliament from July 22nd until the end of Monsoon session. Farmers from 22 states have risen in solidarity and have left from respective states for Delhi. The SKM has been clear that the protest gathering will be not more than 200 farmers on a day.

The Delhi police has denied the request for the protest. The police has instructed the Delhi Metro to not allow seven of its stations to let farmers board the trains. The reason?
COVID-19 protocols.

This is an absolute mockery of democracy in the country. The government can falter on oxygen and beds and vaccines. Lakhs can die. Farmers can be relegated to Delhi’s borders for 8 months. Parliament can run, lock-downs can go, but farmers cannot protest at the Parliament. Even symbolically. What a shame!

Meanwhile, the hunger strike unto death at Sirsa, Haryana has entered the second day. Baldev Singh Sirsa is on strike to persuade Haryana police to release five young men taken in custody over sedition charges.

18
Jul

Farmers Protest: Boy

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Day 235

Toll 538+

Boy

For eight months now citizens and farmers have been protesting at major traffic intersections at Chandigarh. For over four months Baba Laabh Singh, in his 80s, who identifies himself has a Nihang has been camping at Matka Chowk which is on the VIP route. In June, the police tried to evict him, even arrested him to be released later.

Yesterday, for the first time farmers protested against BJP leaders at Chandigarh. The protest against Sanjay Tandon and Mayor Ravi Kant Sharma took place at Motor Market, Sector 48, by activists from Naujawan Kisan Ekta.

Among those picked up was a 13-year old boy, whose video from the police van has gone viral. ‘I do not mind going to jail. If I die, ask farmer leaders from Singhu border to collect my body.’

There is a popular slogan among activists in Panjab:

Ki karange jailan thaane?
Lokan de had wad-de jaane!

What will jails and stations do?
People will keep flooding!

That is people’s take on democracy in Panjab. These are the lessons the government is imparting the young generation. Click here to see video. (17 seconds)

 

16
Jul

Farmers Protest: Agristack

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 233

Toll 538+

Agristack

The history of the world is full of stories of how countries have fought colonisation. Yesterday, at the Singhu border, a speaker applauded the farmers protest for being the first in the world to resist colonization before it has happened. This is how…

On 19th May, 2021, in response to an RTI query, the Ministry of Agriculture provided a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Agriculture and Microsoft, and a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to verify Farmer’s Database (100 Villages from six states) “to develop farmer interface for smart and well-organized agriculture, including post-harvest management and distribution”.

The MoU proposes that farmer’s data will be shared with Microsoft to authenticate their identity for the receipt of entitlements under agricultural schemes. It will be a central geo-tagged farmer database linking the land records of farmers across the country that would integrate data from PM Kisan, Soil Health Cards, and the Pradhan Mantri Crop Insurance Scheme as well as other data.

This database will be leveraged by Microsoft and its local partner CropData to build post harvest management solutions and capture agricultural datasets such as crop yields, weather data, market demand and prices. This pilot sounds very similar to Agristack – a collection of technologies and digital databases, proposed by the Central Government focusing on India’s farmers and the agricultural sector. Basically, Agristack is an algorithm based decision making that will impact farmers’ rights without transparency or accountability. This means, farmers lose sovereignty of their land.

This is a billion dollars of investment and more than 50 per cent is concentrated with just 5 start-ups. Less competition brings more consolidation which gives the bargaining power to these companies and not the farmers. The ground reality of agriculture is that an overwhelming majority – 86 per cent according to a 2015-16 survey – is small and marginal, less that 5 acres and 2.5 acres. Among these farmers, in many cases the land titles are not clear because of disputes. In the upcoming Agristack digital world, all such farm lands will be sucked into government pool, all unclear owners, laborers and sharecroppers of the land will be erased out of existence.

Hence the protest. Imagine if we city folks were to lose our jobs, our homes, our bank accounts, basically the very freedom to be who we are, what we do?

15
Jul

Farmers Protest: Chaduni

   Posted by: aman    in Other, Punjab

Day 232

Toll 538+

Chaduni

Last night, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha suspended Haryana farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni for one week. In itself, one week is no big deal but the step is to send out SKM’s message regarding the upcoming elections in Panjab in February 2022.

For the last few days, Chaduni has been raising a matter that concerns us all – if we are unhappy with the government, then instead of only protesting, why do we not not form our government? Why should the protesters not form their own political party and fight elections, win and make people-friendly laws? Chaduni terms this argument as ‘Mission Panjab’. He says, Bengal results show us that BJP did not relent on Farm Laws. What guarantee do we have that if, a big if, BJP loses UP elections, it would relent?

Various leaders of SKM are on various points over this argument. If I understand well, and given my experience of Panjab elections 2017, unions like BKU Ekta Ugrahan oppose contesting elections. The reason they give is that they stand in opposition to the entire neo-liberal structure and not merely one government or another, one policy or another.

There is logic to that argument that I find appealing. After all, politics is not a silo. Politicians come from the system. India being a socialist nation, the government cannot withdraw from education, health, agriculture, allied fields. Yet, we know how for the last three decades that is exactly what every party in power does – Congress, BJP, Akalis, JD(S), SP and so on. That is because the neo-liberal framework is designed for government to withdraw and corporate players to take over. Not only in India, even world-wide where countries have adopted neo-liberalism.

In Panjab the situation is especially dire because the executive – bureaucrats and police – are active abettors in this privatisation. There is anti-incumbency but it is because the system is so rotten that it fails. The sand and gravel, liquour and transport mafias thrive. That is why current Congress rule, after a decade of Akali-BJP mal-governance, has not changed the ground reality. Like every state, like the nation, the reason is whatever be the good intentions of a politician, the tweezer grip of corporate houses and the need to deal with unrelenting attack of critics, forces it compromise its policies, go against the people, and benefit money bags. That is the neo-liberal structure.

The nation tried the experiment of a totally fresh, transparency oriented, high on ideals party and government with AAP. Where has that taken us? In fact, given AAP’s example from IAC days, many BJP leaders are now accusing the protests, saying: they are only for politics and not for Farm Laws.

The differences between Chaduni and SKM are not a matter confined to the farmers protest. No one denies Chaduni’s importance to these protest. Remember, the Haryana police barricades on November 26 would not have fallen, farmers would not have reached Delhi’s borders, if it were not for the youth and Chaduni’s union.

The differences in SKM on how to deal with elections are a question that all of us need to ask ourselves as we try to now tackle a government which has completely upturned the norms of democracy and exchanged the country’s socialist character for crony capitalism in the most brazen ways. We also need to ask ourselves: what if there were no elections in Panjab and UP? If the elections were two or three years away like in Haryana. What would have been the farmers take on elections?

The debate is: should we fight the system from within or change the system altogether? We do not have answers yet … What would you do?

 

14
Jul

Farmers Protest: Sedition

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 231

Toll 538+

Sedition

Last two days, I shared a few pictures just to check if Facebook algorithms prevent my posts from reaching you. Looking at the response, that is confirmed. Also, I know visuals are easy to respond to, text needs some reading. Anyway, I decided to not use the hashtag. Perhaps, the message will show in your feed.

Yesterday, for the first time, the Haryana police charged farmers with sedition. Yes, you read that right. Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan – Kisan now charged with incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority. This is classic!

On July 11, about a hundred farmers were protesting against Haryana Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa in Sirsa. Police has now filed sedition changes against two leaders, Harcharan Singh and Prahlad Singh, and 90-100 other unidentified farmers under stringent Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 124-A (sedition) and 307 (attempt to murder).

The sedition law, an artefact of the British, brought in 1870, is itself inexplicable in a democracy – Britain abolished it in 2011. Sedition was made a cognizable offence for the first time in history of independent India during the tenure of PM Indira Gandhi in 1973, when arrest without a warrant was made permissible. That is the government this government criticises to find its place in people’s hearts. Yet, this government is merely repeating what Indira Gandhi did. Actually, much worse.

The question here is: who is the nation? Is it the government or is it the people?

Pictures coming in right now from rains on borders. Click to see here. Do you think these people want to topple the government?

12
Jul

Farmers Protest: Martyrs

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Day 229

Toll 538

#FarmersProtest

Martyrs

Three days back it was Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal’s birthday. Badal announced that if his party wins Panjab elections, his government will compensate all the martyrs on the farmers protest with one government job per family, free education for children and health education for life.

What irony! This is the same party that neglected agrarian woes for the decade they were in power in Panjab. This was the period when the agrarian crises in the nation and in the food bowl of India – Panjab – deepened. According to university studies 16006 farmers and labourers committed suicide. The reporting was fudged.

I witnessed the White Fly protests in Panjab in late 2015, reported on it, wrote about it in my book. As the protests were on, incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib came to light. The people’s attention was distracted. This has been the government tactic for decades now. It has been over five years, the sacrilege issue is still not sorted despite two commissions, various Special Task Forces. The threads of most investigations point to Dera Sacha Sauda, enabled by Badals.

Of course, families of those who have departed must be helped. Their loans written off, their children educated, their families must be taken care. The Sikh Gurdwara management body SGPC – again controlled by Badals – announced a relief of Rs 1 lakh per martyr family in December 2020. When that did not go anywhere, now to gain a foothold in the farmers protest, when SAD declares compensation. Sorry to sound harsh, it sounds like ‘ambulance chasing’.

While announcing the package, Badal said, ’550 farmers have lost their lives.’ You see the toll on all my posts. The number today is 538. Where did Badal get 550 from? Or is he rounding off, wishing more people die at the protests? How cruel and uncouth is that?
Actually, you will see that number elsewhere too. On some other social media handles on twitter and Instagram. There is a bit of a story behind it.

The number on my post comes from the blog that Anu Sandhu , Amar Mander, Jai Singh Sandhu, Harender Happy have diligently maintained since the protests started. The numbers in this blog come from newspaper reports, social media, information from farmer unions, individual input. They are reconciled every few days and published. It is meticulous and strenuous work. That it is about deaths makes it even more difficult.

I believe, hardly has any such large protest in the world ever generated such exact statistics. They are, in many ways, sacrosanct. They tell us exactly what is going on and will also be a huge resource for historians.

In mid-June, the team collating the numbers suddenly noticed a drop in reporting on the deaths in local Panjabi media. No Hindi media has reported them consistently. We spoke to some of the major newspapers and they promised to resume reporting. That have done it. The team is very thankful to them.

However, in this period ABP news suddenly projected a number which can’t be verified. On June 27, ABP Panjabi reported 540 farmers had died. Some other media and Instagram handles also did that. I can’t say if they they were averaging and extrapolating or they have evidence. No evidence for that number is available.

That is why, I believe the number is 338, elaborately referenced in this blog. Let us please not run other numbers. To me it is disrespectful to those who have departed and to the close to eight month long farmers protest.

Click here for the blog.

11
Jul

Kisan Sangharsh: Karnataka

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 228

Toll 337

#KisanSangharsh

Karnataka

We know the recent union cabinet reshuffle was really an exercise to pass on blame about extreme failure in governance on 12 ministers and accommodate new faces in preparation for state elections – especially Uttar Pradesh. Given how the PMO has appropriated all ministries for the last 7 years, it does not really matter who heads which ministry any longer.

The elevation of Shobha Karandlaje as Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare is an interesting development for Karnataka. Shobha is perceived to be an efficient minister and very close to Karnataka chief minister B. S. Yediyurappa.
Now, in Karnataka, Yediyurappa is a bone stuck in BJP’s throat. Without him, BJP can’t win elections in the state.

In 2012, he had resigned from BJP and started his own party Karnataka Janata Paksha. In the 2013 state elections, KJP won 8 of the 203 seats and secured about 10% of the total votes polled. It restricted the BJP to just 40 seats, compared to the 110 it had in the outgoing assembly.

Yediyurappa came back to the BJP before 2014 elections. He himself won his seat with a high mandate and then in 2018 state elections with him leading the party, it won 104 seats. Of course, it could not form the government but then it indulged in skulduggery and formed the government in July 2019.

Yediyurappa is 78 years old. According to BJP’s own mandate he should no longer be CM and be in the Marg Darshak Mandal. Yet, there is infighting in the state BJP over Yediyurappa’s push to promote his son and the Centre has not succeeded in getting Yediyurappa to resign.

That is where Shobha Karandlaje elevation comes in to soften Yediyurappa. Yediyurappa’s life long mission has been as messiah of farmers. By offering agriculture and farmer welfare, the Centre wants to convey to him that his life mission will be furthered. But with farmers protest, the Supreme Court suspending Farm Laws, the ministry is curtailed.

Given Karandlaje is from south India, the Hindi language issues, I do not see much point in her being able to negotiate with north Indian farmers. The government thus has a) under-utilised an otherwise efficient minister when there is a real dearth of efficient ministers at the Centre, b) tried to score brownie points with a mass leader important for their foray in south India.

In Panjab, for the last few weeks, some BJP leaders have been raising their voice in favour of farmers and against Centre draconian Farm Laws. Today, the BJP has suspended Anil Joshi, a senior leader from the state. Show us how the Centre has actually lost the plot.

9
Jul

Kisan Sangharsh: Wheat Procurement

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 226

Toll 334+

#KisanSangharsh

Wheat Procurement

By now, I guess, we all know how the government runs advertisements about its achievements – even where there are none. The same is going on with last season’s wheat procurement. Lies, lies, and hiding facts.

To set the record straight:

Last year, wheat procurement was around 31-36% of total wheat produced. This year it was procurement of 39.65%. Yes, it is 3% higher.

Any guesses for reason in increase? Not that suddenly government feels for the farmers. It is because of the pressure of the protests – to show the country that the government is engaged with the farmers.

Here are some cold state-wise figures:

- Uttar Pradesh only 16.85% of

- Bihar only 8.18%

- Gujarat only 4.8%

This is why the farmers demand legally guaranteed MSP for all farmers for all commodities.

8
Jul

Farmers Protest: Fuel Price

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 225 (sorry for error in day count. At some point I missed a day. Will check and correct but for now this is correct.)

Toll 534+

#KisanSangharsh

Fuel Price Protest

Last night, In Delhi petrol price crossed Rs 100. In Bangalore the price is Rs 103.93. The entire country is reeling from fuel and cooking gas price rise.

Yet, I wonder how many are protesting. Or has it come down to the valiant poor to raise a voice which then the middle-class will appropriate and from which it would benefit?

Picture from Tikri Border