Farmers groups call for Bharat Bandh against agriculture legislation on September 25

Farmers in Haryana's Jind district blocked the Jind-Asandh Road on Sunday afternoon as part of the statewide protest against three agri bills. File   | Photo Credit: Jind Police

RSS-affiliated farmers groups are still demanding amendments to provide a legal guarantee to minimum support prices (MSP), although they will not join in plans for nationwide protests against the new agriculture reform Bills.

A wide coalition of farmers groups from across the country have called for a mass protest and Bharat bandh on September 25 to oppose the legislation.

“We welcome the one India, one market that has been introduced by this new law, but we still want our demand for MSP guarantee to be included,” said Mohini Mohan Mishra, a general secretary with the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, which is affiliated to the RSS. “The PM has assured, Ministers have assured that MSP will continue, but we want it to be included in the law,” he said, adding that farmers also want the law to be amended to ensure that traders are registered with a bank guarantee even for purchases outside mandis.

“The Bills may have been passed by Parliament, but that does not stop the government from bringing in an amendment or even another law. The government is sensitised enough. We have made our point very clear that an amendment is needed to ensure that no purchase is lower than MSP. That will protect the farmer and the country’s food security. We will continue to demand for that,” said Ashwani Mahajan, co-convenor of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, which is also affiliated to the RSS.

Watch | Why are the agriculture bills being opposed?

Other farmers groups are making their demands felt in more explicit ways. “There will be nationwide unrest if MSP is not guaranteed and the food security of the poor is handed over to multi-nationals and corporates,” said V.M. Singh, convenor of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, appealing to the President not to give his assent to the Bills. State-wide bandhs are being planned in Punjab and Haryana, along with local protests in other States, he told journalists at a briefing on Monday.

“It is not all just ‘zindabad-murdabad’. We have been trying to engage democratically with the government on this issue. After the ordinances were issued, hundreds and thousands of letters have been sent to the Prime Minister. But even in Parliament, this government has refused to listen, so we have no other option,” said Avik Saha, convenor of Jai Kisan Andolan.

Also read: Highways blocked as farmers’ protests continue in Haryana, Punjab

“Our protests have already put pressure on the Akali Dal Minister [Harsimrat Kaur Badal] to resign [from the Union Cabinet]. We have heard that even the Punjab unit of the BJP is not happy,” added Darshan Pal of the Krantikari Kisan Union.

The most visible protests so far have been in Punjab and Haryana, with their high procurement rates and well-oiled system of arhatiyas or commission agents. “But remember that these are also States with high levels of migrant labour in agriculture, so lakhs of workers from poorer States are also dependent on them,” said Ashish Mittal of the All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha.

“Our problem with the Bills goes beyond the MSP issue to the whole issue of phasing out mandis. Yes, there is a need to improve mandis and create supply chain infrastructure, but let the government do that,” said Yudhvir Singh, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union. “You must recognise that farmers are far more vulnerable to exploitation outside the mandi system. We are producers, not agri-businesses. You cannot simply import the U.S. model where only 1% are family farmers. In India, 86% are small and marginal farmers.”

“It is a question of unequal bargaining power. How can a small farmer negotiate a fair deal with the likes of the Ambanis and Adanis?” asked the All India Kisan Sabha’s Hannan Mollah.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 11:32:26 AM |

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