Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) : 2020-09-19

Front Page : 6 : 6

Front Page

04 CHANDIGARH SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 19, 2020 Spotlight farm bills row In Harsimrat move, SAD sees hope of regaining lost ground { } NUMBER THEORY BEHIND THE AGITATION Why ‘pro-farmer’ reforms have led to protests The Congress-ruled government in the state has upped the ante by announcing a legal recourse against the farm bills, terming them “a precursor to dismantlin­g of the minimum support price system”. Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh went a step further, saying all cases against farmers for violating prohibitor­y orders during the protests in Covid times will be withdrawn. On the contrary, SAD president and Harsimrat’s husband, Sukhbir Singh Badal, had been reiteratin­g the Centre’s assurances that the reforms will have no bearing on the minimum support price. He did so at press conference­s on June 25 and August 27 and even made public a letter by Union agricultur­e minister NS Tomar. The Panthic party panicked when efforts to touch base with farmers failed and party cadres conveyed feedback from the ground that it would be the end of the game for the Akali Dal if it continued toeing the Bjp-led Centre’s line. Already on the backfoot since the sacrilege incidents when it was in power, the Akalis can’t afford to lose more ground. can’t be party to anything that is anti-farmer” she said, adding she was hurt that despite her and her party’s pleas, farmers were not taken on board. Many see the last-minute move of the party as wise or further delay may have pushed the situation out of hand U-turn in the right direction? Party leaders such as Prem Singh Chandumajr­a and Sikandar Singh Maluka had been asking Badal to pull out its lone member from the Union cabinet. “I think now we are headed in the right direction,” Chandumajr­a said after Harsimrat’s resignatio­n. It was as recently as on September 12 that the party’s core committee took a U-turn and for the first time announced opposing the farm bills in Parliament. On the first day of the monsoon session of Parliament, the SAD made a last-ditch effort to avert a flashpoint when it urged the Centre to refer the bills to a select parliament­ary committee and take farmer organisati­ons on board. The SAD subsequent­ly issued a whip to its MPS in both Houses of Parliament to vote against the farm bills, a move that queered the pitch for Harsimrat’s resignatio­n. “The SAD Not wreckers of the alliance yet Harsimrat’s exit is a setback for the long-standing SAD-BJP alliance though she reiterated the continuati­on of the alliance. “We don’t want to be seen as wreckers of the alliance. We will wait for the BJP’S response,” a senior Akali leader said. Being an agrarian state, political stakes for all parties over this issue are high in Punjab. Farmers form a decisive group of the electorate. All parties have come out in their support. The Congress, the SAD and the AAP are convinced that farmers can turn the tide in their favour with the state going to the polls in 2022. The state BJP, however, sticks to its party’s central unit stand that in the long run, the bills will benefit farmers by eliminatin­g middlemen and its alliance partner, the SAD, should have stayed on. Roshan Kishore In May this year, the government announced important reforms in agricultur­al markets. These included deregulati­on of farm foods from the Essential Commoditie­s Act (ECA). Farmers were also allowed to sell their produce outside government-regulated markets, or Agricultur­al Produce Market Committees (APMCS). Another set of changes allowed farmers to enter contract farming. While the government claims that these reforms will help farmers in getting a better price for their products, farmers’ groups have been agitating against these changes. Why are farmers opposing policies which are designed to help them? There are three factors which could explain these protests. The decision for the party led by Sukhbir Badal (in picture) was not easy because it had been supporting the bills since their promulgati­on in June. Gurpreet Singh Nibber letterschd@hindustant­imes.com The Shiromani Akali Dal decision to make Harsimrat Kaur Badal quit the Narendra Modi cabinet is seen as a political course correction to retain its base among Punjab’s farmers, the SAD’S core constituen­cy. Thursday’s decision was in protest against the passage of the three farm bills in the Lok Sabha. The bills are construed as anti-farmer by its opponents who fear it will end the minimum support price (MSP), the assured and open-ended procuremen­t system for foodgrains in practice for 60 years. Many see the last-minute CHANDIGARH: move by the SAD as “full of wisdom” because any further delay and the political game may have slipped out of the party’s hands. But the decision was not easy for the Akalis because it had been supporting the bills since their promulgati­on in June. It found itself pushed to the wall as the farmers’ protest gathered momentum across the state. The SAD’S credential­s as a party of peasants was at stake. FARMERS DO NOT TRUST BIG CAPITAL TERMS OF TRADE FOR AGRICULTUR­E Congress on offensive, SAD on defensive Index of prices received Final consumptio­n Intermedia­te consumptio­n Capital formation 200 183.55 The entire logic of abolishing the monopoly of APMCS is that they artificial­ly depress prices for farmers; allowing corporate players will guarantee better returns to farmers, the argument goes. Whether or not this happens cannot be said today. But farmers have a good reason to be circumspec­t about claims of growing presence of corporates being unambiguou­sly good for them. Agricultur­al input markets , such as seeds, pesticides etc. have seen a large-scale corporatis­ation in the past decade, but this has been accompanie­d by a sharp rise in prices of intermedia­te inputs in agricultur­e. Data from the ministry of agricultur­e shows that a rising cost of intermedia­te goods has been the biggest reason for stagnation and eventual decline in terms of trade for farmers. 164.61 { } Bills part of Centre’s ruin farmers, ruin Punjab plan: Capt HT INTERVIEW HARSIMRAT KAUR BADAL, SHIROMANI AKALI DAL LEADER 158.72 160 ‘Failed to convince govt about farmers’ grouse’ Combined index Index of terms of trade 158.56 132.41 120 87.78 96.43 80.18 73.06 80 71.03 HT Correspond­ent 62.35 issue at every level and at every forum I could, but I couldn’t convince them, so, I took onus on myself. Also, I think I was probably the lone voice who came from a 100% agrarian state. The officers who made the ordinances were unable to see Punjab differentl­y from rest of the country. Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD) leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who resigned from the Narendra Modi Cabinet on Thursday in protest against three farm bills, spoke to 62.12 letterschd@hindustant­imes.com 40 Chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday slammed the farm legislatio­ns being forced on to the nation by the central government as part of the “kisan maaru, Punjab maaru” (destroy farmers, destroy Punjab) conspiracy of the Bjp-led NDA, of which the Akalis continue to be a part at the cost of their own state. “I don’t know what enmity the BJP and the Akalis have with Punjab and why they are out to destroy us,” said the CM, while launching the Virual Kisan Mela of the Punjab Agricultur­al University (PAU), Ludhiana. The launch was held with virtual connectivi­ty at 100 locations and participat­ed by farmers, farmer representa­tives and other stakeholde­rs, including ministers, MLAS and state Congress chief Sunil Jakhar. The CM warned that the legislatio­ns will lead to growing angst among the people in the border state, thus giving Pakistan the opportunit­y to stoke more fires. “Delhi has to rethink on this issue,” he said, adding that the legislatio­ns would undo the sacrifices made by Punjab and its farmers over 65 years to make India self-sufficient in food. Accusing the Akalis of playing their own political games in this entire affair, Amarinder asked the Badals why the SAD had failed to stand with the Punjab government on these Bills and even on the critical water issue. “Did you not think even once CHANDIGARH: 2004-05 2018-19(P) Source: Ministry of Agricultur­e Given this experience, the suspicion towards growing footprint of big capital leading to a squeeze in earnings cannot be dismissed just as dogma. It is not very difficult to understand why this happens. Farmers are often hard-pressed for resources against traders and end up selling their output when prices are lower. Replacing local traders with big capital will only increase this gap in bargaining power. Gurpreet Singh Nibber about why she quit, how she was unable to convince her Cabinet colleagues about the party’s reservatio­ns against the bills, the Congress position on the issue, and her next course of action. Edited excerpts; P What is next course of action for you? My party will decide that. I will stand with the farmers shoulder to shoulder and do whatever needs to be done to get them justice. Had SAD stood with our govt from the outset and put pressure on their ally, the BJP, this situation may not have arisen. HT PHOTO FARMERS WERE NEVER VERY ANTI-APMC TO BEGIN WITH WHAT HELPS FARMERS Punjab and its people, such as the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor, the eliminatio­n of the black list, waiver of GST on langar, allowing foreign donations for Darbar Sahib, road infrastruc­ture, IIM, and much more... I am really grateful to the Prime Minister. But I think I failed to convince the government about the farmers’ grouse on the farm ordinances. When I realised that because of sheer numbers, these ordinances will be passed, I decided to stand with the farmers of my state, as they were petrified because their future is at stake. SCHEMES (Figures in %) Do you plan to join them in protests? MSPS for crops 51.4 The claim that agricultur­al markets were completely shackled before these reforms is factually incorrect. A National Statistica­l Office (NSO) report based on a 2012-13 survey found that farmers have been selling large part of their produce to private traders outside APMCS even earlier. For 31 crops sold between July 2012 and June 2013, local private traders were the single biggest buyers in the case of 29 crops. Mandis, not all of which were under APMCS, were the biggest buyers in just two crops; arhar in the kharif season and gram in the rabi season. Except in soybean, the share of farmers selling their crops to mandis did not even exceed 25% for any crop. In fact, farmers want more rather than less government interventi­on. A Reserve Bank of Indiastudy based on a survey of farmers and traders in 2018 found that more than 50% farmers found Minimum Support Price for crops to be the most beneficial scheme for farmers. This number was just around one-fifth for E-NAM, a pan-india trading portal introduced by the Modi government. Even on the priority list of measures that may help in right cropping decisions/better price realisatio­n and abolition of intermedia­ries (which is what doing away with monopoly of APMC would achieve) was ranked way below facilities such as reliable weather forecasts and storage facilities. If required, Yes. 37 Readily available market Your opponents say that the SAD has changed its position after it had fallen into a trap by supporting the ordinances. 34.5 Products What does your resignatio­n from the Union Cabinet really mean for the alliance between the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party? 19.2 12.2 9.8 AMARINDER SINGH, E-NAM CM Cannot say what will happen to Punjab without agricultur­e and without water?” he asked the Akalis, pointing out that with the SYL issue hanging over the state, the situation was perilous and the SAD had only contribute­d to the crisis by supporting the farm ordinances. Rejecting BJP and SAD claims that Punjab was on board with the farm ordinances, the CM made it clear that the issue of any such ordinances or new laws on agricultur­e was never discussed at any of the meetings in which his government was represente­d at the high-powered committee set up by the Centre on agricultur­al reforms. It doesn’t matter what my opponents say. They need to first answer why they got the APMC Act amended in Punjab. Why, in 2017 and 2019, the Congress manifesto promised laws similar to the ordinances? Why the doublespea­k? They opposed in Parliament and implemente­d in Punjab...the corrupt Congress government can’t raise aspersions on us. None 0.23 These are matters concerning the party high-ups and the core committee. I can only say that alliance is intact and I have moved out of the government because I failed to convince my colleagues over a very sensitive issue concerning my state. Other MEASURES 60.2 48.6 Reliable weather forecasts Storage facility Why did you fail to convince the government of which you were a part? Govt. advisory on crops 47.6 Did you ever expect that the matter will reach a flashpoint and you will quit? I could not make my Cabinet colleagues understand that my apprehensi­ons related to the farm bills were different from those in other parts of the country. In Punjab, middlemen, or arhtiyas, play a key role in the procuremen­t. I took up their Timely informatio­n on market prices * 34.7 29.3 24.9 What role do you see for yourself in Punjab when the state is 18 months away from the state polls? Procuremen­t at MSPS Ban intermedia­ries I’ve been very fortunate that I was a part of the Modi Cabinet for six years. We took several historic ecisions in favour of Opening food processing centres 12.7 I will play an active role that my party gives me. 0.9 Any other *app based; Source: RBI Faces at forefront of Punjab’s farmer stir 3 THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF BIG-FARMER PROTESTS There is merit in the criticism that the prevailing APMC model perpetuate­s some form of rent-seeking behaviour, both public and private, especially in the so-called green revolution areas. APMCS levy commission on the produce which is sold on their premises. This is a source of income for both government­s and licensed traders. States such as Punjab and Haryana charge a higher commission than others. For example, the Shanta Kumar committee on restructur­ing the Food Corporatio­n of India noted that Punjab and Haryana were charging a commission of 14.5% and 11.5% on wheat while this was just 3.6% in Rajasthan. This commission is a valuable source of revenue for these government­s. The local elite, which have diversifie­d interests in both farming and trading also benefit from the process. Any move to suddenly do away with these benefits, irrespecti­ve of its merits or demerits, is bound to trigger a political backlash. The resignatio­n of Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) from the union cabinet is a case in point. According to the Csds-lokniti National Election Study, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the SAD-BJP alliance had a lead of 25 percentage points over the Congress among Jat-sikhs in Punjab. The SAD-BJP had the biggest support among this community, which represents the landed elite in Punjab, and which has also been the traditiona­l supporter of SAD’S politics. By 2019, this massive lead had turned into a four percentage point deficit vis-a-vis the Congress. Also, in the 2019 elections, the SAD-BJP alliance polled the most votes among Hindu upper castes, who are more of an urban demography in the state. With the Congress government in Punjab attacking these reforms, the SAD clearly fears losing its support among its traditiona­l loyalists, the Jat Sikhs. Ferozepur district. Though it has split, Pannu leads the largest faction. The organisati­on has influence in Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Ferozepur districts. Surjit Singh and Avtar Singh Krantikari Kisan Union Punjab surjit.singh@htlive.com POLITICAL BACKING: The outfit has a Leftist approach and has been working with farmers since 2016. The passage of the three agricultur­e bills in the Lok Sabha this week has galvanised farmers in Congress-ruled Punjab amid fears that the move will lead to deregulati­on of the farm sector and end the minimum support price (MSP) system. While the Centre has tried to allay apprehensi­ons, farmer outfits have taken to the streets in Punjab. A calendar for a long-drawn protest has been drawn. Hindustan Times tracks down the agitators on the ground leading the fight. AMRITSAR/SANGRUR: Jamhuri Kisan Sabha LEADER: POLITICAL BACKING Dr Darshan Pal, 68, an anesthesio­logist who left his job in 2003, heads the union. Patiala, Ferozepur, Bathinda, Mansa, Fazilka and Faridkot districts. Among the 10 farmer unions opposing the three ordinances, it burnt effigies of the Centre. It will follow decisions taken at Saturday’s meeting in Ludhiana. : Its leader Rattan Singh Randhawa is the state vice-president of Jamhuri Kisan Sabha, a farmer wing of the Mangat Ram Paslaled Revolution­ary Marxist Party of India (RMPI) that was founded in 2001. Randhawa, 64, is a Leftist leader of Majha. A law graduate and post graduate in political science and sociology, Randhawa has been a Leftist since his student days. He has been a farm activist for 37 years. SUPPORT BASE: ACTION PLAN: LEADER: PUNJAB COMMUNITY-WISE VOTE SHARE Members of farmer organisati­ons protesting against the agricultur­e ordinances in Patiala on Friday. Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee Vote share (%) Congress 2014 SAD+BJP 2014 Congress 2019 SAD+BJP 2019 Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-ugrahan) BHARAT BHUSHAN/HT POLITICAL BACKING: Largest farmers’ group in Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts with a neutral leaning. 61 POLITICAL BACKING: SUPPORT BASE: The Left-leaning outfit was formed in 2002. Badal village and Patiala on September 15. They have extended the stir till September 25. jailed at the age of 16 during the Moga agitation in the ’70s. Malwa districts of Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala and Bathinda. The outfit holds sway in the border districts of Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Ferozepur. 58 58 48 47 SUPPORT BASE: 42 41 40 LEADER: LEADER: Its president Joginder Singh Ugrahan, 72, is a retired teacher. Satnam Singh Pannu, 60, is president. He has remained a Left-leaning student activist. He belongs to Piddi village of Tarn Taran district. Founded in 2000 at Naushehra Pannuan in Tarn Taran district, the organisati­on has expanded its base to 38 34 38 37 33 35 35 34 31 ACTION PLAN: The sabha organised gatherings in the border districts. Randhawa played a key role in protecting the interest of farmers whose land is situated beyond the barbed fence along the internatio­nal border. Bharti Kissan Union Ekta (Dakaunda) 27 24 26 26 ACTION PLAN: It is one of the 10 farmer unions that held a protest in 5 Punjab districts on September 14. Besides the Punjab bandh on September 25, its leader will be taking part in the September 19 meet. 23 18 SUPPORT BASE: POLITICAL BACKING: Malwa and two districts of Majha, namely Amritsar and Gurdaspur. BKU Ugrahan is opposing the bills. Members started a five-day protest at The Left-leaning outfit has been active since 2007. Jagmohan Singh Patiala, 64, is the general secretary. A postgradua­te, he was 15 SUPPORT BASE: ACTION PLAN: LEADER: Hindu Upper Caste Hindu OBC Dalit Dalit Sikh OBC Sikh Jat Sikh Source: CSDS Lokniti

© PressReader. All rights reserved.