Competitive market is the key
It is ill-fated that even those political parties and leaders of the country are opposing the farm laws, who till yesterday had promised to make similar laws in their election manifestos. This does not mean that there is no scope for improvement in the three farm laws. There is definitely a need for improvement in these laws, but the parties and leaders who are trying to ride the bullock cart of the farmers’ movement today, have revealed their true colours. They want the three farm laws to be abrogated. The political insolvency of the Opposition parties has been exposed, as they neither have any leader nor issue that can challenge the BJP or the Narendra Modi government. Be that as it may, it is noteworthy that this peasant movement has to be praised for the fact that it did not allow politicians to dominate its platform. This movement of farmers is also praiseworthy because they did not resort to sabotage or violence anywhere in the country. Although it is a matter of great concern that tukde-tukde gang and anti-national elements have infiltrated the farmers’ agitation. However, it is the matter of great satisfaction that the government is still ready for talks to resolve the issue. This clearly shows that the whole matter has not yet reached the dark tunnel. The truth is that the condition of 40-50 crore farmers of the country is extremely pathetic, though the BJP government has left no stone unturned in improving their condition. The government has been giving them various benefits and facilities in the last six years, but even today our farmer lives in poverty. It is apt to mention here that only 6 per cent farmers get Minimum Support Price (MSP). Ninety-four per cent of the farmers sell their goods in the open market. The rich farmers getting MSP are the backbone of the present farmers’ movement. If we want to improve the condition of all farmers, it is very important to make the Indian agricultural system modern and competitive. If it remains dependent on the government procurement of support price then its backwardness will always remain intact. However, it is imperative to maintain a support-price policy for a few years, but those farmers should be the role models, who sell their produce–grains, vegetables and fruits–in the open market, as they earn more money on average, grow their crops on less land, less water and less fertilizer. Yields of grains, vegetables and fruits can increase manifold in India and the country can become the world’s largest food-exporting nation. The government has made the mistake that it did not properly consult the farmers, nor did it explain the benefits to them before enacting the three farm laws. Although, still it is not difficult to find a middle path.
Reforms are part of growth. The APMC, or the Mandi system, as it is known, has outlived its utility. The Mandi system thrives under political patronage with middlemen running the show. The state governments, especially Punjab, is opposed to it because the Mandi system is controlled by a handful of powerful farmers who virtually hold the small and marginal farmers to ransom. The small and marginal farmers need choices to dispose of their produce, which they are presently denied. The Congress CM of Punjab has conveniently forgotten that these are the very reforms that his party promised in its manifesto during 2019 Lok Sabha elections. What baffles me truly is that when the entire developed world is a leading example of both better social welfare and free market, how do the so-called intellectuals in India seem to always pull us back to the never-ending abyss of state controls. This hasn’t worked. While the anxieties of small farmers and others have to be addressed well, we simply can’t go back to the very system under which we have seen so many farmers committing suicides. In a nutshell, these three farm laws can be described as liberalisation of the farm sector in India. For almost every sector has been liberalised–education, education, health, manufacturing sector, services, medicine and even defence. Then, why should agriculture remain captive? The farmers should also be given an opportunity to flourish and prosper.
By Deepak Kumar Rath