Who benefits from farmers’ exploitation?

Shiban Khaibri
“In war, the strong make slaves of the weak, and in peace, the rich make slaves of the poor.” (Oscar Wilde)
Are all those Honob’les who created an unprecedented ruckus in the Rajya Sabha farmers themselves or having had any experience of farming and with the sweat of their brow, before gracing the Parliament, ever raised a crop not like an elite agriculturist but like a small and marginal category belonging farmer that they saw in the Bills on agriculture reforms as the extreme injustice heaped on the farming community? If they all are farmers or associated with hard core farming themselves taking to fields during the intervening sufficient time between the sessions of the Parliament, we can understand that perhaps, they were having certain apprehensions and fears once these Bills duly passed by both the houses of the Parliament become laws. Even if they had real apprehensions, was the way adopted by them in the Rajya Sabha anywhere defining ”Parliamentary language ” and ”Parliamentary behaviour and conduct”? Perhaps, in the history of this august House, such a bedlam and unruly behaviour has never been witnessed nor even heard. Barging into the well of the House, shouting and noising, breaking and damaging fixtures , standing on the table and making gestures , pushes and shoves as were any less to bring disrepute and disrespect to the decorum and the grace of the House, the Rule Book which is a part and parcel of the Parliamentary proceedings and related to the constitution as such, was first flung at the Chair which if not humped by the RS official standing left to the Chair would have caused injury to the Deputy Chairman. Not satisfied even with this unbecoming conduct of the concerned Honob’le , another Honob’le rushed to the Chair and tore off the Rule Book and threw the same on him . By such conduct, what purpose was served, why was it enacted and with what aim and who benefitted, is what an ordinary citizen is eager to know from these MPs. Our tax money is financing each and every activity of the Parliament including the cost of all the ‘services’ rendered by the MPs in terms of salaries, perks, bungalows , telephone, travel and the like. The infrastructure erected in the House especially in respect of safety measures provided in the light of the COVID pandemic too is at our expenses and, therefore, we are within our right as citizens of this country to ask for the reasons of such a conduct.
As a cover to and under the alibi of the ‘treasury benches were muzzling our voice ‘ is as astonishing as is it laughable and equally unsubstantiated. This writer has never had a chance to hear all these six years even a single word let alone a sentence of praise for the Government for any of its actions from the MP from TMC who tore to pieces the Rule Book and threw on the Dy. Chairman of the House and never ever seen him speaking in a relaxed mood . Opposing each and every Bill, every reform, every decision , every innovative step is considered to be the only thing this Government deserved from him, his leader and his party. A mild punishment awarded to the concerned MPs for the unruly and boisterous behaviour is pooh- poohed by other opposition parties who endorse and justify their undignified behaviour. These opposition parties comprising Congress, TMC, AAP and Communists should openly declare whether in their ruled states they would gladly allow opposition membersin state Assemblies to tear off books and throw at the Chair ? If not , why double standards by agitating against the suspension of these MPs for rest of the session by them? If such behaviourin the Parliament is lent such a legitimacy, what remained in difference between the protests on the roads and lanes and the protests in the august Houses of the Parliament? And, instead of feeling increasingly ashamed and tendering apology, they attempted to bring in a ‘no confidence motion’ against the Deputy Chairman. People, the citizens across the country, fairly well watched the bedlam of unprecedented magnitude. You are less in numbers which cannot be compensated by acts of violence and then bragging that all to be doing in the name of ”democracy and the constitution”.
Please recall the words of Late Rajiv Gandhi who helplessly rued over just 25 paise reaching out of each Rupee spent exclusively for the needy Indians but despite having a massive and unprecedented majority in the Parliament , he could not bring about the reform which immediately on taking over as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi did by introducing Direct Transfer Benefit (DTB) facility by virtue of which benefits and subsidies of various social welfare schemes like LPG subsidy, MNREGA payments , old age pension, scholarships, power subsidies, and the like reached the beneficiary in full and without any hassles through Bank account . That resolved the menace and scourge of evaporation and invisible leakage of 75 paise in between the originating point to the ultimate ”destination”. Just some recent available data of DBT payments between March ending and mid-April this year under all centrally sponsored schemes amounted to Rs.27482 crore in schemes like PM KissanYojna, MNREGA, NOA Pension Scheme etc and imagine had the DBT scheme not having been made the medium of making payments , the same old 25 paise would have reached the targeted groups.
This country needs reforms in every respect, economic reforms, labour reforms, agricultural reforms, tax reforms, political reforms, educational reforms, social reforms, judicial reforms andthe like in the absence of which, we cannot move forward in the emerging global scenario. Agreed, each reform brings with it a bit ofpain or sacrifice but that is just transitory and short lived as also of not much significance. Sensing tremendous impact on the hitherto dormant scenario and bringing about spectacular positive results which though needed for the country’s progress and growth, was perceived by some disgruntled politicians as an undeclared but sure defeat in the elections at the hands of the citizens hence the violence.
Three Bills on agricultural reforms , viz The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation Bill,The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection ) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill , more or less, are already promised in the manifesto of Congress in 2019 and if these have been given practical shape by the present government , why so much of fuss , tumult and furore created by that party and other opposition parties? It is really unfortunate that SAD , a long-time and trusted ally of the NDA should oppose these Bills on the plea of suspected doing away with the MSP from the government, purchase of farm produce by the government and nursing the fear that corporates and big business houses would make the farmers pawns in their hands. The sincerity of the government must be seen that the leadership cared not for votes or losing a trusted and valuable ally but gave preference to the interests of the farmers.
The speech of the then Union Minister Kapil Sibal in the year 2012 in Parliament must be recalled wherein he, underlying the policy of the UPA Government, counted numerous advantages for the farmers from open market conditions , as and wherever farmers wanted to sell the produce outside the domain of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs). He counted in the speech 8 layered middlemen in between the farmers and their produce and asked the opposition to clarify whether they were with the farmers or the middlemen known as ”Bicholayes”. Why now a complete UTurn as they must reply the same question now.
The question is as to why sale in the crops and other agricultural commodities should be conducted only under the aegis of the APMCs through the commission agents , levelling multiple fees , most of those are not only substantial but non transparent and here is the main bone of contention- i.e., the source and generation of political power and monopoly. Punjab , Maharashtra , Kerala etc are opposing the Reform Bills for obvious reasons. That political power is feared to get disturbed but would result in the emancipation of the distressed farmers. If farmers have to be ”rescued” , these three Bills , now going to be laws shortly, are the bridges, the mode and the module. The Prime Minister needs to be listened to and believed as he is the one who does his ‘home work’ very eloquently, meticulously and professionally . Says he, ”For fulfilling political ambitions , farmers are being misled by the opposition parties, entire opposition is one with the middlemen to cheat farmers , their incomes have been looted so far and the people are watching who is with the middlemen and who gulps the profit of the farmers . The party that was in power for decades only deceived the farmers . ”
Neither MSP is being abolished, nor buying by the Government and its agencies of wheat, rice, pulses, etc is going to be affected . In fact, MSP is very recently increased on wheat barley and mustard oil by Rs.50, Rs.75 and Rs.225 per quintal respectively in comparison to last yield. The farmers are free to sell anywhere without any let or hindrance in a manner which fetches them a good price. Reforms will prove a boon for them in the very near future.