Protesting Farmers- right or wrong?
All over the world farmers are respected for their role as food producers in the society. Yet they are not compensated enough for their service , even for meeting their basic needs. In India nearly 50% of the population is engaged in farming, and this has created a lot of challenges for the sector.
Large number of farmers with limited availability of land has resulted in fragmentation of land ownership. This decreases productivity of land and farmer then enters a cycle of indebtness which ultimately ends in suicide. Governments failed initiatives of land ceiling acts, cooperative farming were reforms aimed in right direction.
Even policies to direct farmers towards secondary and tertiary sectors have not borne fruit due to lack of investment in social sectors like health, education etc. which hinder entry into these sectors
Farmers in India have been protesting for a while now, against the 3 farm bills passed by the Indian government. These acts have attracted widespread criticism for its provisions as well as the manner in which it was passed.
The 3 bills are protested against mainly due to its provision of enabling free market system, where farmers are given freedom to sell anywhere.
Though the provision sounds attractive for any outsider, only farmers can understand ground realities of the impacts of these laws. Well that is why consultations are really important before framing laws which the government failed to do.
It is alleged that once free market system is enabled the traders will move out of APMC mandis due to taxes to be paid there and then there will be no safeguard for farmers. This argument can be seen as against the demand supply rules free market system proposes. However, what is notable is that the regulations that have been in place till now have nudged the producers to focus only on 2 crops mainly- paddy and wheat due to its remunerative prices.
Due to this skewed policy farmers are totally dependent on the MSP enabled procurement. Hence the only way government can exit this system of MSP is by shifting its policy to encourage production of all types of crops, by including procurement of all 22 crops under MSP by FCI. This means these crops can then be sold by government or distributed through PDS. However then government needs to arrange for infrastructure to store these grains. Short term method is to lease out warehouses while sufficient is built parallelly via MGRNEGA labors.
Since NITI aayog reports and economic survey have recommended an end to the open ended procurement system, what government failed to realize is the need to think on how to remove itself from the system. As it is the government itself that is responsible for the dependence of farmers on MSP system,.it is governments duty to frame policy to even out the availability of crops in the country.
Monocropping patttern also has caused severe groundwater shortages in states like Haryana and Punjab and also soil salinity problems due to over fertilizer use.
The need of the hour is to plan a phased exit from MSP enabled open ended procurement system while maintaining food security needs of the nation.