The farmers protests: Everything you need to know

If you have not been living under a rock, you may have heard of the ongoing protests in the country’s capital or fair to say well-nigh the capital of our country since the protestors have not been able to actually enter the city and protest even though it is a peaceful one. Now this issue has been sidelined by the mainstream media of our country but as citizens of this country we can’t ignore the cries of our farmers as these are the ones who provide us with the food on our table. Our objective during the writing of this blog was to try to show everyone the reality of this situation while getting rid of the air of conspiracy theories and bogus related to these protests floating around different social medias and not surprisingly, our mainstream media without much proof and evidence about most of their claims.  
These protests are basically against the three new agriculture bills passed in the parliament this year. Particularly, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act. Although to provide proper information, we find it obligatory to provide you with knowledge of all the three bills:

1. The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020: This permits intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) markets and other markets notified under the state APMC Acts. 

2. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020: This bill Removes cereals, pulses, oilseed, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. Does away with imposition of stock limit except under exceptional conditions. 

3. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Act (FPTC Act): This bill is the major bone of contention. It allows farmers to sell and purchase of agricultural produce outside the premises of APMC mandis.

The major issue is the right of center to enact legislation on agriculture marketing. Under the provisions of entry 33 of the Concurrent list, Centre is allowed to make laws on the inter-state and intra-state trade of farm produces and remove all impediments to it while overlapping the existing APMC acts in respective states. However, since there is a difference between trade and marketing, the center can make laws that allow barrier free trade of farm produce and not allow stockholding but it can only occur after the farmer has sold. The regulation of first sale of agricultural produce is a marketing responsibility and comes under the legislation of states.  

The major issues regarding the farmers: 

1. Lack of consultation: The most unfortunate thing here is that there has been no consultation with Farmer Organizations regarding these new laws. “The farmers will become laborers in their land,” said Abhimanyu Kohar, national coordinator of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh -- a federation of 180 farmer organizations in India.   

2. Fear of losing means of income: The majority of cultivated land in India is owned by small and marginal farmers with less than 2 hectares of land. The FPTC act provides farmers to sell their produces outside the APMC mandis which are the major marketplaces for the operation of MSPs. When the farmers will be allowed to make deals outside of these markets, it will inevitably result in their phasing out and although they will not be closed permanently, they will just become like other decaying PSUs like BSNL and would prove to be of no or minimal help to such farmers.

 The small and farmers have no means to do negotiations with major corporations and have fair prices given to them. These laws although provide farmers with the freedom of choice of buyers, there is no compulsion of contracts regarding such trade which puts the farmer in a difficult position as they cannot approach a court with worthy evidence if aggrieved and give them little protection against such misconduct of the buyers. The new bills will also do away with commission agents and the older system. Interestingly, the farmers want the old system to remain as they are provided with finance from aforesaid commission agents for the cultivation of their crops and since banks do not easily provide loans to such small farmers, they are solely dependent on commission agents and other money lenders.

 The farmers say that already farming is not a profitable occupation and if there will be no MSP, it will be difficult for farmers to even maintain their living. 

3. Absence of any regulation in APMC mandis: APMCs are physical marketplaces. Farmers are required to bring their produce to the market if they have to sell it there. Given that APMCs have been state government legislations, there is lack of uniformity in India. This also provides an opportunity to examine if APMCs, or their absence, make a decisive impact on the emergence of competition to traditional middlemen. 

These issues have been the major reason for farmer’s protests in the country. 

This calls for steps to be taken by the government such as: 

1. Government should massively increase the fund expansion of the APMC market system.  

 2. Rather than focusing on heavy centralization, they should focus on empowering farmers.  
3. The government should reach out to those who are against the bills and then should make the amendments. Without the amendments, the free market may harm lakhs of unorganized farmers which will lead to downfall of the national economy.  
During the course of these protests, there has been a massive flow of fake news and bogus information for the suppression of the protests, we decided to fact check some of them are: 

1. Video of police removing the turban of a Sikh Man: there is a video posted on Facebook and trending in which it is seen that a police officer removing the turban of a person, it stated in the caption that most of the protestors are actually Muslims disguised as Sikhs and that this protest is nothing but the mobilization of public opinion by members of the Congress. 
But actually, that particular video is of 2011 of Mohali. You can find more about the actuality of this video by just searching “police removes turban in Mohali”. 

2. Image claiming injured farmer and retired captain to be the same man: there are many posts claiming an injured farmer and retired army captain Prithipal Singh to be the same person. But theQuint has verified that the two persons are not the same and these images are posted just for gaining support. 

3. Picture of Muslim man becoming Sikh and participating in the protest: Perhaps the most popular out of these bogus news is of a man named Nazeer Mohammed who has apparently “disguised himself as a Sikh to participate in the protests.” but the post that is shown by people is actually of April much before the protests began and a fact checking website called BOOM actually contacted Nazeer and found out that since the government required him to wear head protection gear since he is an electrician by profession, and some of his colleagues suggested him to wear a turban, which is the reason for him wearing the turban. 

4. Picture of some Sikhs holding banners asking for reinstation of Article 370 and Article 35A: there is a photo circulating in social media of a group of Sikh protestors holding banners for the restoration of Article 370 and 35A. When the image was searched using Google’s reverse image tool, it was found that the photo was actually posted on 8 august 2019 but since the farmers protests have actually started quite recently, this photo claiming the presence of such banners is fake. 

5. Video claiming Khalistan supporters in farmer’s protest: there is a video being circulated in regard to the ongoing farmers protests in which a person is shouting “Pakistan Zindabad, Khalistan Zindabad”. When the video was searched on the web using reverse image search tool, it was found that the video was actually posted on July 1,2019 and actually occurred during the 2019 ICC World Cup matches in England. 

We are sure that there are many more fake news and fake photos/videos being posted on social media while making false claims. To concentrate the topic of this blog towards the farmers protests we are not able to fact check any more of such fake posts. But it is advised to all you readers to always fact check claims made on different social media platforms and to not blindly follow such claims.  

The current situation:  

· AIMPTC threatens halting of operations across the northern region: the apex body of transporters in India AIMPTC has threatened that they will halt their operations in northern India from December 8 if the government fails to address the issue of farmers. 

· Arvind Kejriwal claims the central government was angry on him for not allowing the use of Delhi stadiums as jails for the massive number of protestors. 

· Farmers protesting at the Singhu border claim they are prepared for a long stay in brazing cold capital region. 

· Farmer leader Darshan Pal appeals that the parliament should hold a special session to repeal the new laws or else they will need to take more steps. 

· Ahead of the second round of talks to be held tomorrow, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said “Let’s see to what extent issues can be resolved”. 

Ergo, there is a need for strong institutional arrangements before the country could suffer with more quarrels. The new bills impose a threat on the conventional methods of incomes of farmers which have been existing in India for a long time. These bills have also led to the arousal of fear among the farmers which has led to thousands of farmers to come on the streets and protest in masses during a time when social distancing is customary. These bills would decrease the income of farmers who are already facing a subsistence crisis in these times of havoc and could lead to the decline of the highest employment providing sector in India and help in creating an even deeper hole in the economy which is already facing the shackles. 

 — Mayank Mishra 
 — रचित


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