Farmers’ Protests: “The rain on India’s Republic Day Parade”?
Farmers, farms, farm bills- Who cares?
By Mark Rohan Roshan
We, the people of India, we care. We care about the producers of the food that sustains our life.
Cries of “Dili Chalo!” and “We are farmers, not terrorists!” have been raised these past few months on the border of the capital of India. Even during the harshest, coldest nights, the farmers have remained undaunted in their fight. But what are they fighting for? We have heard of something called the “Corn Laws”, but is it really that important? As India proudly celebrates its 70th Republic Day, these farmers seem to be bang on the spot of action. But should we worry about them? That is the question that I will be answering in this article.
To begin with, let us look at each step of our food’s journey…
The farmer buys the seed, sows it in his fields, nurtures it and harvests it. However, then he must bring it to the local mandi (market). Farmers are not allowed to sell their crops outside the mandis, or in other districts or states.
In the mandi, the crops are bought from the farmers by middle-men, who pay around 8% tax to the mandi officials. Out of this 8%, 2% is divided among the mandi officials, while the remaining 6% goes to the state. In largely agricultural states like Punjab and Haryana, a huge amount of the state’s revenue comes from here- this 6% tax.
The middle-men buy it from the farmers at MSP- Minimum Support Price, but they sell it to others at much higher prices. This is why consumers in big cities pay Rs. 40 for a kilo of potatoes, which the farmer sold for Rs. 2.
The consumer (which is you and me) buys the crops, usually from middle-men, since we don’t have the time or patience to buy it directly from the farmer in the local mandi. Therefore, the consumer buys it from the middle-men at a much larger price than what the farmer sold it for.
The Shocking Price range:
In Nordic countries, the difference between the price paid by consumers for food and the price at which the crop is sold at by farmers is 10%. In Indonesia, it is 20%. In India, it can be anywhere from 65%-95%. Isn’t that shocking!
The Farm Laws:
The Farm Laws were made to change this- remove the mandi and the middle-men. Then why is it unpopular? Let’s find out…
1. The mandi
The mandi will no longer be of any use. The officials who regulate these mandis all over India will be out of jobs. The states that get a huge profit from mandi taxes will lose out. The State Governments of Haryana and Punjab especially will lose crores of rupees, as their states are the most agriculturally productive. Also, the State Governments aren’t very happy with these Laws because they were passed without consulting the states and in a time of another major crisis- COVID-19 (Yes, it had to fit in somewhere in this article!).
So far, the State Governments and mandi officials are against the Farm Laws.
2. The middle-men
The middle-men lose out substantially; they no longer receive the huge profit they used to receive. They can no longer come to the mandi and bargain with the farmer.
So the middle-men, too, are against the Laws.
3. The huge corporates and companies
The huge corporates and companies actually benefit from these Laws (not that they weren’t benefitting before). They get to open up into a whole new field- buying food from the farmers and transporting it to the consumers. Thus, the large companies end up forcing the farmers into difficult contracts and putting them under a lot of pressure- just like the British did to our weavers, less than a hundred years ago. Let me illustrate this with an example. You like a certain type of wheat-based cereal made from a company called Bellogs. To make the cereals, Bellogs Company approaches the farmer and forces him to sell his wheat to them, in exchange for money. After they pay him an advance or loan, he is forced to sell all his wheat to them at a previously decided, low price. This puts stress and pressure on the farmer, especially if harsh weather or locust swarms damage the crop.
So the big companies and corporates benefit from the Farm Laws.
4. The farmer
Although in the mandi system, the farmer had some control in dictating his price for his crops, now he has no choice but to agree with the big companies. What can he do with his crops? He cannot take it to another district. He cannot take it to another state. He cannot export it to other countries. No consumer comes to him to buy bulk amounts of his crops. He is left with a lot of crops but no money, while the consumers are left with money but no food. With no other alternative, the farmer does what the corporates and companies dictate.
So, the farmer definitely does NOT benefit from the Farm Laws, although that was what they were meant for.
5. The consumer
The consumer is no longer able to buy crops from the middle-men and HAS to turn to the corporates. The corporates get richer than they already were. The consumer is too busy to approach farmers directly, and has no desire to buy crops in bulk, so he turns to companies for his daily food.
So, the consumer is almost where he was to begin with, since instead of buying crops at a high price from middle-men, he is now buying them at a high price from big companies. This is the reason why in India’s vast population, there is so much apathy to the farmers’ protests.
What can we do to help the backbone of our society?
Buy crops directly from farmers- avoid bargaining with them. We can show solidarity with those fighting for their livelihoods outside Delhi, in the form of clothes, food, water, and other donations. Participate actively in farmers’ associations and farmers’ groups.
Remember, on this 70th Republic Day, there are some fighting for their lives. If you really want to show your patriotism, go support our soldiers in tractors and ploughs. Show solidarity with the backbone of our agriculture-based nation.
To answer the question at the beginning of this article: Yes. Yes, we must care. We should worry about our farmers.
I strongly encourage you to do whatever you can for our heroes with shovels and spades.
Let us remember that
when WE support OUR food providers,
WE are supporting OUR nation.
About the Writer:
I am Mark Rohan Roshan, a student of Class IX, Springdays CBSE School, Eraivankadu, Vellore, Tamil Nadu. I am proud of my country, and am willing to serve it in any way possible.
His father: Dr John Roshan Jacob at Christian Medical College, Vellore.