Taking Note Of Farmer Welfare, Kerala Way

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For more than a month now, farmers are writing a new history, camping at the borders of Delhi. The concrete barricades, thorny iron fences, and powerful water cannons have not been able to prevent their tractor-trolley from reaching the vicinity of the national capital. They have been so determined and prepared that the Delhi winter has failed before them. Assembled in their thousands, they have established a new way of life at Singh, Tikri, Ghazipur, Noida, and Shahjahanpur. In some manner, the upsurge by these farmers resembles the ‘Occupy Wallstreet Movement’ in the United States, in 2011, whose slogan reverberates even today across the world: “We are the 99 percent”. 

 

Unflinching willpower The government might have thought that the farmers would retreat to their villages after a couple of days or a week at the most, but this is not the mood at all among the farmers. As a frequent visitor to one or the other centres of struggle, this writer would definitely say that this farmers’ struggle is unique in the history of free India. A self-contained lifestyle with all necessary arrangements for food, shelter, clothing, and sanitation are in place. Scores of them, young and old, with whom this writer could interact with, represent the unflinching will of a people who consider agriculture as their culture. Their utmost proximity to soil and nature has tempered them as steel while helping them remain calm and cool at the same time.  The firefighters in the government who talk in different terms (maybe purposeful), might have prepared their own strategy to face this struggle of the annadatas.

 

Some of them say that the doors of dialogue are always kept open. There are certain others who are stubborn in saying that there can be no compromise on the implementation of the three Farm Bills. There are also those who still promises to take a relook if necessary, but only after two years. There is no need to ponder on this as most of these officials have been trained in a certain ideological school. As part of their campaign of malalignment, the propaganda managers have labelled the farmers ‘Khalistanis’ and ‘urban Naxalites’.  But these sons and daughters of the soil, who sow the seeds of hope to feed their fellow beings, have maintained inimitable self-restraint. Their struggle, their unity, their patience, and the massive nature of their battle are having an impact on the cohesive nature of the ruling alliance, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

 

Following in the footsteps of the NDA ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal that walked out of the NDA in support of the farmers, the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party has also snapped its ties with the alliance. Another important party that shares power with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Haryana continues to remain unhappy with the central government’s approach to the farmers’ issues.  The Narendra Modi government expected the farmers to tire out and slowly retreat from the battlefront. But it is mistaken. The determination by the farmers to go on with the struggle is only strengthening by the day. The Prime Minister himself has come forward to lead a frontal attack on the annadatas. Recently, he minced no words in expressing his disappointment while accusing the struggle of being a politically motivated one. The thrust of his attack was evident when he criticized the Opposition as misleading the farmers and shooting from their shoulders to target the government. In this tirade, the Prime Minister pointed a finger against the Left Led government in Kerala

 

The situation in Kerala All the allegations that he has leveled against the Kerala government are unfounded, and far from the truth. In his exhortation that there are no Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) and mandis in Kerala, he presumed that the concept of the Minimum Support Price is not prevalent in the State. He has shut his eyes to the basic truth about the agricultural scenario in Kerala.  It is true that mandis regulated by an APMC are not in existence in Kerala. But it does not mean that the interests of farmers are not taken care of in the State. In fact, Kerala is the State where farmer's rights are being protected by the government itself, and much more effectively than any other Indian State. While the government of India has fixed the procurement rate for rice at ₹18 a kg, the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala is procuring rice from cultivators at ₹27.48 a kg.

 

In the same manner copra (dried coconut) is also procured at a much higher rate in Kerala than the price announced by the central government. Kerala is the State where the increased basic price is ensured not only for paddy but also for vegetables and fruits. Sixteen such items are enlisted by the government where the basic prices (per kg) are guaranteed. To cite some of them, tapioca (₹12), banana (₹30), garlic (₹139), pineapple (₹15), tomato (₹8), string beans (₹34), ladies’ fingers (₹20), cabbage (₹11) and potato (₹20).  Apart from crop insurance, paddy cultivators will get the royalty in Kerala at the rate of ₹2,000 per hectare. They have a pension too, which is something unique in India. In 2006, when farmers’ suicides became the order of the day across the country, the Left Front government introduced a debt relief commission that extended a helping hand to the farmers, thereby saving them.  There is a basis for a counter No BJP­led government in the country can even imagine the measures that the Left government in Kerala has initiated for the welfare of farmers. Instead of understanding those measures, the Prime Minister has chosen to train his political guns on the Kerala government and the farmers. The influence of corporations on his allegations is clear. The Left has the moral and political authority to engage in any polemics with the BJP ­led central government in this regard. 

 

It is intriguing why the Prime Minister has never said a word about the experience of Bihar where mandis were abolished in 2006 and the plight of farmers that only worsened after this measure was initiated. After the three farm ordinances of June 2020, 40% of mandis in Madhya Pradesh have registered only zero transactions. The corporate stamp This is the reality of the Farm Bills. Though they claim ‘to enable’ the protection and the empowerment of farmers, the truth is just the opposite. The purpose of these laws is to enable the corporatization of Indian agriculture and the introduction of contract farming. When Ministers continue to assure the continuance of mandis they are practically pushed out of the scene, as it happened in Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere. The annadatas have been able to foresee the evil in the three farm laws that would eventually find them at the mercy of corporate profit mongers. They know that these laws would ruin the backbone of the agricultural economy and badly affect the food security of India.  The farmers are in the struggle in order to prevent such a calamity from happening. It is high time that the Prime Minister and his government understand the patriotic and selfless role being played by the food providers of the country and the genuine nature and cause of their struggle.  


 

 

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