‘The End Consumer Must Connect With The Farmer’

Kavitha Kuruganti, a Bengaluru-based member of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, says repeal of farm laws is just the beginning; a lot more is needed to protect small farmers and Advasis

I handle the media relations and public statement of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha and was actively involved in drafting the resolution adopted by Kisan Sansad held at Jantar Mantar in August this year.

We wanted something positive in terms of entitlement to farmers with regards to the crop prices. And our demand is in sync with the promises made by NDA government which had committed itself of doubling the farmers income during their tenure. It is unfortunate that even to this date they haven’t made any progress on this front.

While the government has rolled back the farm laws what farmers need beyond the repeal is guaranteed price for their produce. Towards this end, we asked for four things under the title Kisan Swaraj Neeti. These four steps are the essential elements of changing the paradigm in favour of the country’s farmers.

First is income security to be guaranteed to all framers. It’s not correct that we talk in bits and pieces in terms of insurance, better technology. At the end of the day, whatever the government does in the name of farmers or rural development and agricultural reforms, it has to manifest itself in terms of a dignified living income. The government has to make itself accountable to deliver the income and not schemes, as they do not add up to better income. If you make the overall goal of raising their income, all other things will be better aligned and there will be a self-correcting mechanism of them becoming falling in place.

ALSO READ: ‘Films To Farms, It Has Been A Strong Learning Curve’

The second is environmental sustainability in agriculture. There is no point in degrading our resources or overexploiting our resources. A short term prosperity, if at all there is any such thing, at the expense of those very resources which are required to sustain livelihood for the future is unacceptable. If our soil degrades, out water tables dry up, our diversity erodes, how can farming sustain in future? So making environmental sustainability a key focus and commitment in everything we do. Sarkar, Bazar and Samaj all three have equal responsibility towards this end.

The third is the control of resources must remain in the hands of farmers. You can’t take away their land, forest seeds and expect them to still survive in this enterprise. The government cannot lay claims to agricultural resource; that will be resource-grabbing.

The fourth and final one is to save diverse and nutritious food for all citizens. We want consumers to be connected to food, farming and farmers. The struggle for farmers cannot just be their struggle alone; it is the food system struggle and consumers have a large stake in it. This is how we in ASHA Kisan Swaraj articulate the Kisan Swaraj Neeti and while by doing so we visualize the invisible actors in farming like women farmers, tenant farmers, and Adivasi farmers. Without that social responsibility building, the structure will not sustain.

‘Farm Laws Abolished Due To Political Compulsion, Not Change Of Heart’

Sukhbir Singh, 55, a son of soil from Sangrur, Punjab says abolishment of Central Farm Laws is nonetheless a tribute to the indomitable spirit of Punjab farmers

Words cannot describe my happiness about the repealing of the Farm Laws. Our mehnat, our struggle and our belief has borne fruit and on what a beautiful day: Guru Nanak Jayanti. Maybe the day was symbolically chosen by the BJP government to call truce, but victory nevertheless tasted sweeter on Gurpurab day. I was literally jumping with joy when the news was flashed on TV screens that the Farm Laws bad been rolled back by Prime Minister Modi.

I wouldn’t say it is a change of heart that brought about the roll back, but rather out of political compulsion: as a step to save the vote banks or not antagonise other voters during the forthcoming Punjab and Uttar Pradesh elections. Yet, no matter what the reason, finally seems like the government has come to its senses.

Born into a family of farmers, and having literally grown up on farms, I know how we deal with challenges year after year. It has been an uphill task to manage the different hardships from reducing ground water table, struggling to get right prices for non-staple crops in the absence of minimum support price, rising unpaid loans during a bad season to many other things. The repealing of Farm Laws is therefore just the first step; the government needs to walk a long road with the farmers if it truly wants to support them. Authentic and honest dialogue is important between the government and the farmers.

Singh (in his 20s and now at 55) says having grown up on farms, he knows Central laws are not beneficial to farmers

Hamari ekta, hamara sangharsh karne ka jazba, hamari sach ka sath dene ki takat, in sab cheezon ne hi humein aaj jeet dilayi hai aur aage bhi dilayegi (Our unity, our indomitable spirit, and our courage to always stand by the truth has got us this victory today and will yield greater results in the future too).

I am proud of all my farmer brothers and sisters from other parts of the country, but I am especially proud of us Sikhs. We give everything we had to the purpose at hand fearlessly. Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the successive Gurus have taught us to believe in both ourselves and a cause that moves us. Many people think that farmers have been unreasonable in not budging an inch, but the entry of corporates into farming would have meant an increase in price of almost all eatables. Perhaps then those people would have understood. We are people of the soil and we know what we are doing.

The government should understand that the voter in a democracy has a lot of power and Indian democracy is a robust one. We took everything in our stride during the year-long protests and finally the government had to bend. The government needs to understand that it is serving the people and needs to understand their fears and concerns and maybe suggestions too before bringing in new laws that affect huge sections of people.

‘People Will Draw Strength From Farmers’ Resolve & Victory’

Dr Sumit Kaur, who was part of a free medical facility for protesters at Tikri border, says farmers’ resolve made Prime Minister Modi see reason

This is such a huge victory for the farmers that the Centre has accepted their demands and announced it will repeal the three controversial Farm Laws. But we are not done yet. Even though this is a milestone in the farmer’s protest, we have a longer road to tread. For, the protest was not only about the Farm Laws being taken back, but also about the need for the government to look into important matters ailing the agricultural sector like MSP guarantee, farmers’ suicide, farm loan waivers etc.

I hope the Prime Minister has finally understood that leadership does not mean imposing arbitrary laws, but taking into consideration all the stakeholders involved. The farmers’ undying spirit, especially those of Sikh farmers, has made Modiji see reason. Hope he understands the importance of dialogue.

Kaur with her teammates who set up a medical langar for protesting farmers

Perhaps others will draw strength from the victory of farmers and will stand beside the issues they believe in. I am feeling overwhelmed and equally proud at this victory. The international support is of no less importance. Support for the farmers poured in from everywhere and no matter what names we were called or whatever was thrown our way, we didn’t give up and we didn’t lose sight of our aim: better life for our farmers.

We braved everything from extreme cold and pollution last year, to fear of catching Covid among large gatherings and crowds, lack of basic amenities and everything else in between. But in the end we did manage to make the current government see reason. Our conviction has paid. Democracy has prevailed.

Perhaps other leaders should take note from Rakesh Tikait on how to lead. Tikait Sahab ne protests me nai jaan phoonk di (Tikait breathed life into the protest). He said that he wouldn’t go home unless the Farm Laws were repealed and he stood by his word. That’s how leaders should be, with one ear always on the ground as to what the janta wants. No doubt farmers from Punjab have been the most vocal during the protests. We always stand by what is right and what is beneficial for everyone involved.

Kaur at the protest site and her makeshift camp

I am currently in Punjab, but I so want to be with my friends at the protest site at the Delhi borders right now. It takes your joy to a whole new level, when you can share it with those who have undertaken the journey with you. Here’s hoping this is the start of a beautiful journey for the agricultural sector. I salute the farmers, the protesters and the independent media alike.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

Weekly Update: Adani Busts Modi’s Claims On Farm Laws; Justice Chandrachud’s Sermon

Prophetically, PM Modiji assured farmers that they had nothing to worry as selling in the open market would fetch higher prices for them than the meagre MSP. Modiji has undergone quite a metamorphosis in his premiership, changing from a savvy fashion icon with multi-lakh suits to a simple Yogi. Perhaps in his new incarnation in office he might have developed talents of a ‘seer’. But even the best Yogis get it wrong at times. This time pesky Adani has done exactly opposite of what Modiji predicted.

In Himachal, farmers decided to give the new deal a chance. Apple growers went to Adani Agrifresh Ltd to sell their stock. Adanis and Ambanis were going to be the new saviours of farmers, able in theory to give them twice the price of those state run Mandis and MSPs.

As it turned out, Adani offered them some ₹12 to ₹72 for a Kg of apples depending on their ‘happy’ colour, meaning quality and how red they were. Quick calculations on their fingers showed farmers that after calculating travel costs, input costs etc, they were in fact subsidising the apple free market. Usually it is the Government that subsidises farmers.

Several turned to the good old state run Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs). Not surprisingly they were offered more, between ₹90 to ₹125 per Kg. Even the so called illiterate farmer, as Modi Government had suggested farmers don’t understand economics, worked out that ₹90 offered by APMC for the lowest quality apple is much higher than ₹72 offered by the capitalist Adani for the best quality Apples. It became a bit of no brainer for farmers to work out where to sell their apples, the state sector or the free market.

To rub salt into Modiji’s wounds, Adani’s apples sell for ₹250 per Kg after a bit of shiny plastic or other packing. A hefty 300% profit. It doesn’t seem after this, the farmers protest is going to go away in a hurry as nice old Adani has just proven them right. He just proved their fear that the freemarket will drive down the prices instead of enriching farmers. Perhaps, Modiji’s Yogi stage of life will come handy somewhere else.

Justice Chandrachud Foils Own Truth To Power Sermon

Justice Chandrachud is becoming a bit of a star celebrity among the liberal minded Indians. He has been making the right sounds, giving the impression that he is willing to uphold the law against any Government trying to do a bit of ‘bendy mendy’ with the Constitution. Perhaps he wants to make a name in the historical hallways of Supreme Court to stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Bhagwati and Iyer. However after unravelling his latest speech, it is obvious that there is a bit of a way to go before joining legends like Iyer and Bhagwati.

Justice Chandrachud has boldly advised his fellow countrymen, ‘to speak truth to power’. “Democracy and truth go hand in hand. Democracy needs truth to survive,” Chandrachud spoke with conviction.

He suggested that speaking out has been a privilege of upper castes so far and told all citizens of India to enjoy the freedom to express their opinion. Suggesting “women, Dalits and members of other marginalised communities have an important role to play in this context”, he said. “Since they did not enjoy the freedom to express their opinion, their thoughts were confined, crippled and caged. After abolition of the British Raj, the truth became the belief and opinion of upper-caste men.”

Perhaps he was subtly alluding to the Government when he said at the virtual event totalitarian governments are associated with a “constant reliance on falsehoods” and it is the duty of citizens to strengthen public institutions and expose the “lies of the State”.

Great words, one might say. But when the common man hears of journalists being slapped with ‘sedition’ charges after saying something unflattering about Modiji or the Bhakts and others speaking their version of truths such as Government has failed the people during the pandemic being thrown into jails, the esteemed Judge’s rally cry sounds a bit hollow. Where is the rickshaw-wallah going to get courage to ‘speak truth to power’ is a mystery which Justice Chandrachud might also want to solve.

Of course His Lordship can introduce suo moto cases in the SC and order dropping of all charges against those who ‘spoke truth to power’. But that hasn’t happened so far,

However, he gave an example, where a ‘clever’ citizen might sense the fear even in their Lordships rhetorical posturing. The Justice started, “It can’t be said that State will not indulge in falsehood for political reasons even in democracies”. An original statement of discovery if ever.

Now he is an Indian Judge extoling his average non elitist fellow citizens to “speak truth to power”. For empathy in the statement, one would think that he would have picked an example in Indian post 1947 history that most could relate to, such as the fabricated reasons on the 1984 attack on Golden Temple, the statements of Congress leaders after 1984 Delhi massacres, or the report after Gujrat riots or numerous other examples of explanations given by Indian politicians after riots, massacres, corruption scandals and a lot more that everyone knew were creative tales. These events are close to home and examples that the citizens can relate with. They are examples that citizens could feel should not have happened.

Their Lordship said this instead, “The role of US in the Vietnam War did not see the daylight until the Pentagon papers were published. In context of Covid, we see that there is an increasing trend of countries across the world trying to manipulate data. Hence, one cannot only rely on the state to determine the truth.”

How many Indians know of the ‘Pentagon’ papers in far off land, the USA! Or was the Justice playing it safe while firing his fellow citizens to stand up to politicians?

The Vietnam example is a bit naff. The politicians responsible for that war are dead and long gone. So no problem in ‘exposing the lies of Vietnam’ and still being invited to top legal tables in America. Even if he wanted to avoid the wrath of his own government and deflect away from home, he could have had cited the CIA report on Russian meddling in American elections when Trump was helped but Trump and Senate denied. Now that would have been the Justice standing by what he is preaching. Otherwise ‘speaking truth to power’ is just another fad and fashionable comment these days and Indians cannot be seen to be left out of what is trending around the world.

But if citizens did take his message to heart and start ‘speaking truth to power’, there will be millions of sedition or related charges. Politicians and lies are synonymous in the mind of most Indians. Currently it takes a few decades to get a hearing at the courts. Then it might take centuries if people take his advice.

‘Rihanna, Greta Have Amplified The Voice Of Farmers’

Neeraj Tyagi, a farmer leader from Mandola Village in Loni, Uttar Pradesh, says the Modi government which tried every trick in the book to suppress farmers’ voice is now worried about its global image

Galat ko galat, aur sahi ko sahi kahna, yehi ek insan ki pehchan hoti hai (A man of integrity will never be afraid of calling a spade a spade). I respect the fact that a global celebrity like Rihanna decided to speak up on the issue of Internet ban during farmers’ protest. I also respect the young child and environmental activist of mark, Greta Thunberg, who brought the matter to worldwide attention.

I think celebrity support, if given with good intent, helps engage people to look more deeply into a matter of public importance. Artists are sensitive, they feel deeply about other humans. We are all humans too, apart from being citizens of our respective countries.

When the largest democracy in the world is at risk, how long can people keep quiet? If Modiji and other leaders can comment on what is happening in other countries, why can’t international celebrities do it? As long as the language is not hateful and demeaning, people are within their right to raise their voice.

ALSO READ: Many Global Celebrities Spoke About Indian Farmers

The Indian celebrities who were sleeping while the farmers had been protesting, are now trying to defend the government, using a script drafted by the Ministry of External Affairs (#IndiaTogether #IndiaAgainstPropaganda).

Tyagi (far right) at a farmers’ protest site

Some are saying Greta Thunberg is a child and does not understand Central farm laws. I want to ask them: Do children not suffer during a crisis or disaster? It is in the interest of farmers that their issue are being talked about at global level. This will amplify the voice of the farmers and bring the government to the table for a meaningful dialogue.

Now, the government is concerned about its global image. Where was their concern when it was hammering nails on the road and barricading the border to stop farmers? Is a country’s image dented only when public figures question it and not how their leaders act?

ALSO READ: This Protest Is Modi Govt’s Biggest Test

Hasn’t this government come to power on the basis of sheer words? One of the major PR programmes during the 2014 elections was Chai pe Charcha; now it is shying away from charcha on matters of public importance. They brought in Farm Bills through ordinance, sidestepping any debate or dialogue.

This government tried to label anyone who questioned them as anti-national but now they are finding it difficult to suppress the voice of the farmers. The media too needs to stop taking sides and raise issue impartially rather than sensationalise them.

Discussion is the need of the hour. Parliament is a sacred place where even those who don’t have a voice, can find representation. The democracy is accountable to the people. And a democratically elected government should be able to answer when it is questioned.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

Farmers’ Agitation Is Modi Govt’s Biggest Test

Forget the Covid pandemic; forget the economic downturn; forget election debacles or political crises. The biggest test that the Modi regime, soon to turn seven years old, has been subjected to during its ongoing tenure is the deafening protests by farmers against the changes that the Indian government has sought to bring about in the way farmers are able to grow, market, and price their produce.

In the last three months, protests by farmers have reached a crescendo. On January 26, which was India’s 72nd Republic Day, a group of angry farmers deviated from their designated protest route, tried to storm the historic Red Fort, and clashed with police. As that was happening, a few kilometres away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was presiding over the official Republic Day celebrations on Delhi’s Rajpath.

At least 70 farmers have died during the raging protests against three laws that the government has passed. And, the protests, which began in the northern state of Punjab, have now spread across the country. What makes the controversial farm laws and the protests against them such a big trial for Modi and his government? For an answer, let us first recapitulate the new laws and their impact.

The three new farm laws change decades-old policies regarding procurement and storage of farm produce. One law permits the setting up of mandis (or trading places) that are de-regulated from government control—that is, where farmers can sell directly to all traders at prices they negotiate rather than to only government licensed traders; another law permits farmers to enter into contract farming through deals with corporate entities and to grow whatever crops they decide to under contract; and the third allows traders to stock produce with less restrictions than at present.

The government’s rationale for these changes is ostensibly this: they will enable farmers to sell at whatever prices they want and to anyone they want to; and to be able to enter into contracts that could assure them regular and steady streams of income. From the ongoing protests, which have been escalating, it is quite evident that the farmer community has not bought this logic.

Farmers and their supporters feel that especially the smaller farmers whose incomes are meagre will be hit by the new measures. First, their produce volumes are too small for them to be able to negotiate prices with traders who aren’t regulated—thereby they would likely be exploited. Second, although the government has assured that the mandi system will not be dismantled, farmers fear that the new “unregulated” mandis will consequently do exactly that, and that small and medium farmers will suffer. Lastly, contract farming, they fear is a way of giving the corporate sector easy access to the farm sector.

Nearly 60% of 1.3 billion Indians depend either directly or indirectly on agriculture, which accounts for 18% of the GDP. But the farm sector is severely skewed. Almost 70% of Indian farmers own land that is less than 2 hectares (20,000 sq. m) in area. And as much as a quarter of Indian farmers subsist below the poverty line. Moreover, because of lack of alternative employment opportunities millions of Indians depend on the farm sector without really contributing to productivity.

Against that background, reforms in the agriculture sector are overdue. But changing the system of pricing and procurement of crops without other structural changes in the sector cannot be a solution. In fact, it could lead to further suffering for millions of Indian farmers. The farmers’ protests are a sign of how acute the problem is. And, for the Modi government, it is the most critical test that it faces in its tenure thus far. In 2016, Prime Minister Modi announced a sudden decision to demonetise large currency bills. Ostensibly, it was with the intent of limiting or detecting unaccounted money in the system. What resulted was: widespread suffering for small traders, daily wage earners and other large segments of the population that operate in the “cash economy”. Those with so-called unaccounted wealth went largely unscathed.

Demonetisation was certainly a critical test that the government faced. But its effects—on economic growth and on small businesses—were not nearly as serious as the impact of the new farm laws have been. Over the last few days, the clashes between farmers and the authorities have turned more violent, particularly in the areas surrounding the capital city of Delhi. The authorities resorted to blocking of Internet in various areas around the capital and neighbouring states—purportedly in efforts to curb social media interactions. Police resorted to tear gas and baton charges against thousands of protestors. Already, the ripples of what is happening in India have reached the world outside. And questions are being asked about the true value of democracy in a country that prides itself as being run on the highest democratic principles.

ALSO READ: The World Is Taking Note Of Indian Farmers’ Protest

The police and authorities’ action against famers’ protests have also spilled over to affect others. A freelance journalist, Mandeep Punia, who was covering the protests, was arrested on the border between Delhi and Haryana last weekend. He was granted bail after spending two days in custody and much outrage. Others have had cases filed against them for reporting or broadcasting news that has been considered “anti-government”.

But the more serious issue is that India’s mainstream media has almost been rendered toothless in recent years, particularly after the current government came to power in 2014. It does not require media experts to see how the majority of mainstream TV news channels and print publications largely avoid taking on the government and critiquing its policies. When they choose to do so the critiques are of the milquetoast variety, tailored not to ruffle the feathers of those in power too much. In any democracy, the role of the media as the fourth estate should be that of a watchdog. In India, at least when you look at it from a dispassionately distanced point of view, it may seem that the mainstream media is more of a lapdog.

For the Modi government, the farmers’ agitation has other possible consequences. The farm sector’s voters aggregate as the largest block during any election. And although the government at the Centre is safely ensconced for the next four years, there are crucial state elections that are due and those could be impacted by which way farmers decide to vote. Also, if the agitations escalate and food supplies are affected across India, they could have other economic consequences such as inflation and distribution bottlenecks. Already reeling from the impact of the Covid pandemic, the economy could be hit further. For the Modi government the farmers’ agitation over the controversial laws could be something that could bring it to its knees.

Winning A Battle Does Not Win A War

In a civilian protest rally of a million or so, it should not surprise even the most naïve that a few hundred will take matters into their hands, run amok and engage in dramatic acts to gain attention. Governments often like these unplanned breakouts. They exploit the indiscipline of a few to the hilt, squeezing every drop of advantage they can get, even justify sending in the armed forces to crush the dissent. The mass tractor rally in Delhi has given the BJP government at the Centre that opportunity. It is yet to see whether it milks the situation or acts wisely. The media is already on the script.

The narrative of violent elements having hijacked the protest and secessionists hoisting the Sikh flag on Red fort (Lal Qila) are the headlines. There has been little coverage of the other 99% of the peaceful protestors.

But neither Farmers’ leaders not the millions around the world supporting the farmer protest should feel guilt, remorse or surprise. The leaders are not professional sergeant majors trained to manage a battalion of troops in discipline. Nor are the millions of volunteer protestors a well-heeled army of ‘marching’ cadres. The discipline of armed forces was on show a few miles away at Rajpath. The creative indiscipline of ordinary people was evident at the farmer protests.

There is also a long history of agent provocateurs disrupting well-intended peaceful demonstrations. Often state security services deliberately provoke or leave windows open for the aberrant breakaway groups. Yogendra Yadav, one of the farmer leaders, has already made a statement accusing the police of deliberately letting the sideshow happen.

Moreover, fringe groups who rarely get any publicity or support, piggy back on legitimate mass movements with dreams of precipitating a ‘revolution’. It happens everywhere in the world.

This sort of passionate acts and violence happened in the otherwise peaceful Rath Yatras led by Advani but which ended in the demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. Breakaway violence gave Trump headline excuse in America’s Black Lives Matter. It has happened in most big protests in Britain such as miners’ strike and the poll tax. It happened in the demonstrations in 1982 in Punjab.

ALSO READ: Global Implications Of India’s Farm Laws

It will be highly disingenuous of the Government to exploit the side show in the otherwise very peaceful demonstration to distract from the issues and use it as an excuse to crush the farmers. It will be a punitive win.

The vast majority of farmers concentrated on their intended protest. There were families, elderly and children. Many protests took place in other parts of the country. All the protests were otherwise peaceful except the ones in the Capital.

The Government may take out its old playbook and start the game of distraction tactics, arrests and charges. It will be tempted to make claims that national security is under threat and hope for a anti farmer public opinion wave to crush the protests. The now very compliant Indian media houses will oblige. Yet the Government may wish to make risk assessment of this failed policy.

This has been tried many times before. The exploitation of some indiscipline was exploited in 1984. The legitimate movement for greater state rights was labelled as a secessionist terrorist campaign. But it backfired with two prime ministers assassinated, a fractured country, demoralisation in the Army, rise of a new political fundamentalism and a country on brink of bankruptcy in 1992. It took some 15 years to get back on keel.

This time the farm laws protests are not confined to Punjab but have spread throughout the country. This time there is also a bigger menacing neighbour than Pakistan willing to exploit internal dissent. No number of shiny Rafale jets can control people’s movements as the mighty USA has found in the Middle East.

The grievance of the farmers are real, much as the Government would like to delude itself that it has been hijacked by Communists and secessionists. It is simply about land.

The country fights for every inch of land against its neighbours and invaders. The neighbouring countries want to expand territory and gain access to resources. India, like every country has a huge armed infrastructure in place to protect that every inch of land.

Farmers too fight for every inch of their little patch of land against predatory corporates and big money. Corporates want to take over their land to exploit the resources. Unlike a country, the farmers only have their legs and their will to fend off policies that favour corporate takeovers of small farms. What is so difficult to understand about that?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not been able to convince the farmers that his brand new wonderful laws are really for their (farmers) benefit. He has lost the argument. Pushing it with tyrannical or dictatorial force is neither democratic nor in the best interest of the country.

But Modi is no tyrant. Tyrants destroy those nearest them to consolidate power. Modi is too dependent on the party and the RSS to be a real tyrant. Does BJP want its image to be like the Baath Party of Iraq?

Modi is also not a real dictator. Dictators don’t usually bring in policies that endanger their rule. They are careful. Modi is a victim of his own myth rather than a true dictator

Moreover the Indian democracy does not really let tyrants or dictators last for long. Modi is a man caught in his own mythology. His party has built a persona of Modi the strongman who never does a U-turn. These sort of hyped-up public profiles do not work well in democracies. They end tragically for the person. They usually serve the interest of those who build the myth.

That is what happened to Margaret Thatcher. She fell on her own sword, brought down by her own party and financiers when they needed her no more. That is what happened to Trump in the end. That is what is happening to Boris. That may well be the tragic political end of Modi as those close to him dig in the knife and burst the myth. Democracies are built to oust despots, tyrants and dictators, not to boost their rule. Indian democracy is no different.

Powerful politicians are those who can do U turns without looking weak. PM Modi has left little scope for himself to open his arms and say sorry to farmers and repeal the laws. He and his coterie of myth makers think that will shatter the image of the strong man. It is foolish and its is dangerous. It is not political art. Politics is the field of compromises and sometimes the compromise has to be total for longer survival.

This is now a dangerous impasse for both Modi and the country. A heavy handed response and attempts to malign the farmers could trigger deep resentment and rebellions.

The fact is that both farmers and the government feel there is a need to bring in reforms. But the Government has listened to the wrong economists and policy advisors. Most of them are old retired economists still hooked on GDP rather than comprehensive economics that incorporate aspects such as security, people’s contentment, life opportunities etc.

Exploiting the side show in farmers protest and using the law and armed force may win the battle. But winning a battle does not win a war. That is what the Government should consider seriously. It will be best to treat the aberrant group of protestors just as that and let it be. Concentrate on the issue and the other 99%. Repeal the laws, work with farmers and bring a better set of policies and laws in place. The alternative is not good.

Watch – ‘We Feel Blessed By Serving The Farmers’

As farmers from Punjab and Haryana camp at Singhu border to demand rollback of three Agriculture Laws, members of the Sikh community have come out in support of the demonstrators. Many of them are providing free ‘Seva’ in the form of piping hot tea, fresh snacks and other food items to keep the protesters warm in the cold weather.

LokMarg this week spoke to several such ‘sevadaars’ who have set up langars that provide ‘Badam Chai’, an almond tea with snacks, and healthy snacks 24×7 to the protesters. These service providers say the facilities will continue as long as the farmers are stationed at the Singhu border. There is little doubt in their minds that the Centre will have to roll back the ‘black laws’ in the interest of the farmers.

Watch the full video here

‘The World Is Taking Note Of Indian Farmers Protest’

Gurcharan Singh, 54, a teacher in Toronto, says farmers protest has now become a people’s movement. Every weekend, he attends demonstrations before Indian consulate in biting cold

I have been a Canadian citizen for the last 25 years but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten India. My heart is still there and so is my extended family who are all farmers. Before I shifted to Canada 30 years back, I was a farmer in Punjab. I worked at the fields during my studies and even after I had taken up a job in India.

I still fancy farming and look forward to owning a farm in Canada in future. Therefore, I understand the challenges and hardships a farmer faces. I understand how unpredictable a farmer’s life can get and in India, MSPs are the only predictable thing for this community.

Since the matter was so close to my heart I braved the sub-zero freezing cold and the fear of coronavirus to take part in anti-farm laws protest in Canada. Major demonstrations and car rallies are held every weekend in our city outside Indian consulate while sporadic protests take place here and there as well. Each weekend, protesters drove down in various vehicles from cars, tractors, goods trucks, dump trucks, trailers etc, some from as far as 45-50 kilometres, to reach the consulate. I have attended all the weekend rallies since December 12.

A protester in Toronto displays his solidarity with Indian farmers

The protests have been peaceful. On December 19, we gathered at the centre of the city on Dundas Square (Toronto) where we were confronted by a Modi supporter. However, the organizers calmly requested him to go away. Then we were escorted by police and marched on city streets three kilometres to the consulate office. Nothing can stop us.

All three bills are very dangerous. If the first Bill gets passed, the corporates will kill state-run mandis and MSP system. I support MSP for all 23 crops. Even vegetables and fruits should have MSP, if we want to keep our farmers alive.

The second bill about contract farming is worse. Some farmers in Sangrur (Punjab) and Gujarat have already experienced its adverse impact in their dealings with cola major Pepsi. Moreover, the lack of dispute redressal mechanism can prove to be very dangerous for the farmers.

Third bill is about unlimited storage of crops. When under new law only one company (Adani group) will be controlling the storage and distribution to consumers, then they will be controlling the whole distribution process. Artificial shortage will be created and consumers will have to pay five times more prices.

ALSO READ: ‘Govt Wants Farm Sector To Go Telecom Way’

I am glad that Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau is openly supporting the farmers movement. Not only him, but the Opposition leader, Erin O’ Toole (Conservative Party) and Jagmeet Singh (New Democratic Party) also support the farmers. The idea of corporatisation of farming was tried in Canada some 40-50 years back and our leaders know what a failure it was, which is why they are standing with the Indian farmers.

A protester holds an anti-Modi placard in Toronto

I feel Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is running away from his responsibilities. He is bending over backwards to please his corporate friends, Adani and Ambani. I think he is unable to accept his failure. Farmers from Punjab started this protest and now it has become a people’s movement. It has brought people from all religions, all professional backgrounds together like never before. The movement will stop BJP’s engine running on the fuel of Hindutva.

We will keep voicing our dissent in our part of the world. I do not have to take time off from work because most of the protests happen on weekends. I attend the protests with my wife, son (24), daughter (19) and family friends. Even though my children are Canada-born they do understand the ground realities of India.

My daughter drove nearly 100 kms from her University in Waterloo to the protest site just so she could register her voice. She also spent a lot of time making posters for the protests. I was filled with pride to see that first, second and even third generation Indians, including Sikhs, were present at the rallies. This is no longer just an Indian farmers issue anymore; the whole world is taking note of the situation.

Singh (in green turban) and other protesters brave freezing cold to voice their dissent

Watch – ‘Medical Langar Will Continue Till Farmers Are Here’

As farmers from Punjab and Haryana continue their protest at Singhu border, several Sikh organisations have set up medical kiosks at the protest site. The organisers told LokMarg that the facilities include digital check-ups for blood-pressure and sugar level, and medicines for common ailments or discomforts in cold weather.

Trained pharmacists run these units, aided by organisations like Akaal Aid and Initiators For Change, among others. The medicines and facilities are also provided to the local populace free of cost. Calling these units as ‘Medical Langar’ the organisers say the services will continue as long as the protests stays on, be it six months or a year.

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