I feel sorry that today’s television news has become nothing more than a provider of popular memes and WhatsApp stickers. I remember when I was a kid, whenever my father or grandfather used to tell “Turn on the TV, let’s watch the news”, the first thing that would come to my mind was a boring discussion for say 30 to 35 minutes.
Today, however, the situation is changed. Today, I can assure to all the kids that you won’t be bored; instead, you will have all the fun and entertainment. There would be catchy headlines, glamorous photos of the actresses in the background, and much more.
I can rant about this topic for hours, but that will only add a layer of despondency in times where everything is already so chaotic. So, I will try my best, to talk to you about an issue, which is certainly not important for the TV debates, because honestly, I didn’t know about this topic before actually studying about it. Maybe there would be that much coverage of this issue in a TV channel which usually a Hindi film actress gets in a typical Masala Film.
Agriculture: Backbone of Indian Economy and its History
Infinity is never defined, no matter whatever you do there would be some who would be in a superior position or more popular than you. The same thing happened with probably modern India’s most influential leader, LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI.
He gave a slogan that every politician in our country used in the same way we use the “applications” of what we have studied in every subject in real life. The slogan was “JAI JAWAN JAI KISAN”.
However, the latter ones in this slogan Kisan (English, Farmers) are actually struggling these days. They are protesting, and they even have made their own slogan “KISAN BACHAO MANDI BACHAO”.
These protests were started by Bhartiya Kisan Union as they asked from the government of Haryana to conduct a protest to which the government declined their request. The farmers started their protest in the “Tractors” and this protest was called “Tractor Protest”.
In order to understand the meaning of “Kisan Bachao Mandi Bachao” (English: Save farmers save Marketplace), first, we have to understand the structure of Agriculture in our country. I hope you remember the first chapter of economics in class 9th which was “The story of Palampur”.
Historically the problem with farmers was that the distribution system of the agriculture system was somewhat occupied by the money lenders and traders, especially in the village. The farmers were used to be in debt. Since the major population of our country still depends on agriculture and at the time when India got independence, this number was even more than what it is today. So, the government made a plan to have a committee.
The government thought to form APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee). The government planned to formulate a “market area” in a State and the jurisdiction was given to the Market Committee.
In order to purchase commodities from the farmers, they needed a license to purchase. APMC was formulated by the APMC Act and the main objective of this act was to reduce the exploitation of farmers by formulating a new concept of Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Here, we have to understand that the MANDI which the farmers are referring to is actually APMC, APMC is a kind of MANDI or say a regulated market where the farmer was not exploited
APMC and MSP: Boon or Bane?
The government made a very structured way of APMC and also introduced a concept of Minimum Support Price. MSP can be defined as a minimum price that must be given to the farmers in order to sell their crops and other kinds of stuff.
This reduced the exploitation of the farmers by the otherwise shrewd traders. MSP was supposed to be a boon for the farmers but as they say, theory and practice are two different things. In reality, most traders decided to fix the amount to be given to the farmers.
Let’s understand this by a simple example, for example, if an apple is produced by a farmer and the MSP of that apple is say (5 Rs), but if all the traders had already decided that they will not give more than 5 then, the minimum support price becomes the “MAXIMUM SELLING PRICE”. This was one of the major flaws of the APMC system which is also known as MANDI.
The whole debate started when after the monsoon session began this week, in the Lok sabha three major bills were passed to replace the ordinances. The three bills have been named as “The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020”, “The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020”, and “The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020”.
Why Are Farmers Protesting?
Now we have to talk about the issue which farmers are protesting for. While it has to be noted that farmers are protesting against all three ordinances, the main objections which farmers are raising are mostly against the provisions of the first ordinance.
However, it has to be noted that till today, there is no uniform demand among the protesters nor there is a unified leadership of certain groups, but it has emerged that the main concerns among all the farmers are mainly about sections relating to “trade area”, “trader”, “dispute resolution” and “market fee” in the first ordinance. Now we have to look at the sections of the Act:
“Section 2(m) of “The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020” defines “trade area” as any area or location, place of production, collection, and aggregation including (a) farm gates; (b) factory premises; (c) warehouses; (d) silos; (e) cold storages; or (f) any other structures or places, from where the trade of farmers’ produce may be undertaken in the territory of India”.
The main problem is that the MANDIS which are included under the AMPC Act will be excluded from the definition of trade are according to this new legislation. According to the protestors, because of this act, the MANDIS will only be confined in the physical premise and corporate will rule the agriculture industry too.
In simple words, this is the typical concept of free-market or capitalism. Most of the farmers are scared that this will actually reduce their income. The government has however given a slogan named “ONE NATION- ONE MARKET”.
According to the government, this policy will actually help farmers because they can purchase anything from anywhere, and the farmers are not bounded or restricted towards only one “MANDI” or market in a loose sense.
MONOPOLY, PRIVATISATION and OPPOSITION in “NEW INDIA”
A monopoly is a type of market, where a specific person is responsible for selling commodities in a market. For example, Railways in India is a monopoly of the government, because the government controls the railways and they make all the rules regarding that.
In a democratic socialist set-up, a Monopoly may be a decent type of market, because if it is owned by the government people have believed in the government they have chosen. However, the monopoly is considered to be a very authoritarian type of market if it is private because it considers a situation where only Samsung phones are available in the market.
People who like Red me or Real me or any other phones cannot buy it. This situation can never be healthy and the customer has only one option to purchase. This is the reason the monopoly is considered to be a grim business policy.
I am talking about Monopoly because the criticism this government is facing is about monopoly. This is because in around the month of January 2020, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the government is planning to sell AIR INDIA (Airline company) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (Oil and natural gas corporation).
The government has also planned to start around 151 private trains on different routes. Currently, India has some private trains which are run by IRCTC in Delhi (NCT OF DELHI) Lucknow (UP), Mumbai (Maharashtra) Ahmedabad (Gujarat), and Indore (MP) Varanasi (UP).
The thing is that somewhere everyone is scared that someday this government will sell everything and we will be under a private or say a corporate set-up. This is the reason why somewhere farmers are also prejudiced to the fact that the government is trying to sell the agriculture setup also.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) party which was in the coalition with the BJP has ended their alliance. In fact, Sukhbir Badal, leader of the SAD party announced in the Lok sabha that Harsimrat Badal who is the Union Minister for Food Processing Industries from his party will resign. She has now resigned from the post.
I don’t want to take any sides here and I understand that you will be irked and call me spineless because I am not criticizing it but I believe that no matter how much I study, I will still be not able to understand all the nuances of this subject because I am not an economist nor an expert on the subject of agriculture or farming.
Neither I am an amateur in these subjects, but yes with my limited knowledge, I can say that “One Nation- One Market” seems to be flawed because at least for me it is impossible to think that a farmer from Betiah (Bihar) will go to Bidholi (Uttrakhand).
However, I believe that we have a quasi-federal structure, we have a different ministry. Under the different ministries, we have a highly intelligent and efficient bureaucrat, so, I will hope that they will understand the problem of the farmer and will try their best to the job for them because as I said one of the most influential leaders of modern India who was also born on 2nd October has said “JAI JAWAN JAI KISAN”.