More than half of farmers oppose farm laws: survey

Almost 40% fear new laws will end state-run markets

October 19, 2020 10:10 pm | Updated 11:25 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Farmers block railway tracks during a 'Rail Roko' protest over the farm reform bills, at Devi Dass Pura village in Amritsar, Punjab on October 15, 2020. File

Farmers block railway tracks during a 'Rail Roko' protest over the farm reform bills, at Devi Dass Pura village in Amritsar, Punjab on October 15, 2020. File

More than half of Indian farmers oppose the three farm reform laws passed by Parliament last month, while only 35% support them, according to a new survey in 16 States conducted by Gaon Connection Insights. Almost 40% expressed fear that the new laws will end state-run markets and government procurement at minimum support prices, and almost 60% are in favour of a legal guarantee for MSPs.

Also read: On day 1 of special session on farm bill, Punjab House sees protests

Despite the widespread opposition to these laws, almost 44% of respondents said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was “pro-farmer,” while only 28% said it was “anti-farmer.” When asked about whom the Modi government supports, however, about 35% of those surveyed thought that it supports farmers, while 30% felt that it supports private companies and multinationals, and 15% said the government supports middlemen and traders.

 

Gaon Connection did a face-to-face survey of a sample of more than 5,000 farmers, three-fourths of whom own less than five acres of land, in 53 districts across 16 States between October 3 and 9. It found that state-run mandis are the most popular medium of produce sale across the country (36%), followed by private traders (26%). Currently, only 2% sell to corporates.

Geographically, the north-western States of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh which have the highest proportion of sales in state-run markets (78%), also have the highest rates of opposition to the news reform laws (77%).

Also read: Congress to hold protests against Farm Act

In the eastern States of Assam, West Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, only 39% opposed the laws, but even fewer (36%) supported them. A quarter of respondents in the east responded “can’t say.” A similar lack of awareness or interest was also evident in the southern region, where 26% of respondents gave the same answer.

The west was, however, the only region where supporters of the new laws (52%) narrowly overtook the opposition (48%). In the north, which includes the poll-bound State of Bihar, along with Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, there was a 53:47 ratio against the laws.

Also read: Punjab BJP leader quits over farm laws

Almost 60% of those opposed felt that the laws would force them to sell at lower prices in the open market, with 38% fearing increased dependence on private companies. About a third said the government wanted to end the MSP system, and 32% said farmers would turn into bonded labourers due to contract farming.

Those who supported the laws said freedom to sell their crops (47%) and freedom from middlemen (35%) were their major reasons.

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