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

Watch – ‘We Have Faced Colder Nights In Our Fields’

Even as cold wave sweeps north India and mercury dips close to 1 Degree Celsius, farmers protesting at various Delhi borders have dug their feet in. LokMarg speaks to several farmers camping near Singhu border as to what keeps them going despites such cold weather.

Most farmers make light of the biting cold, saying that they have faced colder nights working in their fields. They also reiterate that till the Centre repeals the ‘black laws’ they are not going anywhere, weather be damned.

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Watch – ‘We Don’t Trust This Jumlebaaz Govt’s Word’

Agitating farmers at Singhu border tell LokMarg that ground situation about state procurement is different from what Modi government managers are speaking on the media. Haryana farmers list out their hardships in selling their millet and groundnut crops, their counterpart from Punjab say the current regime is working under the pressure of capitalists who want to establish monopoly in the agriculture sector

They have little faith in the verbal assurance from the government over minimum support price or Mandi system. “The very fact that the Centre is ready to amend the laws shows they have inherent flaws,” the farmers on the site say.

Watch full video here

Also Watch: ‘Govt Has Sold Itself To Adani-Ambani’

Also Watch: ‘Won’t Go Back Till Black Laws Withdrawn’

Watch – ‘Modi Govt Has Sold Itself To Adani-Ambani’

Agitating farmers at Singhu border say their massive protests have brought the NDA government down on its knees and first they will bring down Haryana government in a few weeks, and later the Union government if their demands are not met.

Haryana farmers are also angry that their electoral support had been taken for granted by dynast Dushyant Chautala and Khattar government. They feel betrayed by political class as well as the media for portraying the kisan movement as Khalistani movement.

The farmers say the government has sold itself to Ambani-Adanis. They are confident that the government will have to take back the laws as the protesters are ready for a long haul.

Watch full video here:

Watch Part I Of Farmers Voice: ‘Won’t Go Back Till Laws Repealed’

Watch – ‘Won’t Go Back Till Black Laws Are Withdrawn’

LokMarg visits Singhu Border where farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been holding sit-in protest against Central Agriculture Laws. The protestors are firm in their resolve to stay put till the time Modi government withdraws the ‘black laws’. These farmers are angry over what they call “false reassurances” on MSP and farmers mandis only after prolonged protests.

There is also anger and distrust over private participation in procurement of farm yield, which they say will harm both the producer and the consumer. Some even liken the current regime to British Raj in its nonchalance toward the care and condition of the farming community

Watch Part I of the video here:

Watch – ‘We Haven’t Heard Of Farm Laws Or Protests’

Farmers of Punjab and Haryana have intensified their protests against Central Agri Laws and are camping at various protests sites on Delhi border. However, scores of small farmers in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh have little knowledge of either the new Central laws or the ongoing protests, even though they say that farming is a non-profitable occupation and payments from the crop-buyers are erratic and below MSP.

These farmers complain of dwindling incomes but have no solution in sight for their hardships. Clearly, farmer leaders have failed to communicate their agenda to a broader spectrum of farming community.

Watch the full video here:

Watch – ‘Farmers Have Been Betrayed Many Times’

As farmers from Punjab, camping at Delhi-Haryana border, continue with their protests against three Central agriculture laws, the farming community in Haryana has also thrown its weight behind them. To understand the position of farmers in Haryana and Punjab, LokMarg speaks to Veerendra Singh Badkhalsa, general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Haryana.

Badkhalsa says there is a trust deficit between farmers and the Centre. The farming community has little faith in the motive behind these new Central laws. Critical of politics behind the laws, he points out that laws brought in by Punjab Assembly have no new provision to safeguard farmers’ interest.

Watch the full interview here:

Watch – ‘Shoot Us In The Chest, We Won’t Turn Back’

Delhi Chalo protests by farmers is turning violent. The agitating farmers from Punjab appear determined to break every police barrier to reach Delhi and register their protest against Central Agriculture laws. Their chief demand is: making purchase of crops below minimum support price a punishable offence, instead of allowing corporate sector into the sector.

Women, youth, middle-aged and old from rural Punjab told LokMarg that they would prefer being shot in the chest than run away or turn their back. Calling the Central provisions as Black Laws, the protesters are unfazed by police force or water cannons deployed to bar their entry into Capital.

We apologise for the quality of the video. It was shot by the farmers themselves who are keen to tell the world of their determination. We felt it only right to get their message across. Watch the video:

Punjab Farmer With Wheat Crop

Crop Diversification May End Farm Distress

A diversified cropping pattern will help in mitigating the risks faced by farmers in terms of price shocks and production/harvest losses

If a country’s chief executive does not have an economics background and is not counselled by academically sound economists then he will be prone to making ambitious announcements which are more likely than not to run aground. More in an attempt to diffuse the growing unrest among farmers resulting from their not receiving right prices for their crop almost every planting season condemning them in growing indebtedness, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a promise in February 2016 that the government would ensure doubling of income from cultivation by 2022.

This is more easily promised than likely to be redeemed. Ahead of the start of the two sowing seasons, the government will announce minimum support prices (MSP) for 14 kharif (summer cum monsoon) crops and 8 rabi (winter) crops. All this besides, New Delhi will require of sugar factories to pay ‘fair and remunerative price’ (FRP) for sugarcane, revised every season (October to September) on recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). The government has asked CACP to fix MSPs in a way as to ensure that farmers get at least 50 per cent higher than cost of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and irrigation water and also unpaid value of family labour.

Whether the growers are getting MSP or are forced by circumstances to sell their crops below minimum prices, the government helped by largely an unquestioning media along with a huge publicity campaign could create a myth that finally deliverance had come for Indian farming community. In an ideal situation, farmers should see MSP as sovereign guarantee. In case they fail to realise MSP in the open market, they should be able to turn to official agencies to dispose of their crops at government guaranteed prices.

An on the spot survey carried out by Jai Kisan Andolan (JKA) a few months ago coinciding with kharif output arrivals in the market shows that on average the farmers were selling for anywhere between ₹500 (for cereals) and ₹2,000 (for dals) per quintal below the MSP. Yogendra Jadav of JKA says: “Farmers had lost around ₹1,150 crore in the first three weeks of the marketing season as they were forced to sell below the MSP.” No wonder then, the country saw protesting farmers arriving in thousands in Delhi and Mumbai to draw national attention to their privation.

The official procurement being over the years mainly focussed on rice and wheat, it has become a given that the weighted average of mandi prices of other crops such as a number of oilseeds, maize, tur and urad would trend below MSP. A spokesperson for Crisil Research says: “Our assessment indicates that crop profitability (in the past few years) has dropped across nine of the 15 states when assessment is made of 14 key MSP crops covering over 50 per cent of the sown area. We believe the challenge for the government goes beyond fixing MSP to ensuring farmers get it by strengthening the procurement machinery.” 

Close to 50 per cent of the net cropland area of 180m hectares (9.6 per cent of global coverage) being rainfall dependent, land productivity and crop size are influenced by monsoon behaviour. No wonder then, agriculture and allied sectors growth rate fluctuated between minus 0.2 per cent in 2014-15 and 4.9 per cent in 2016-17. While there are assurances from India Meteorological Department that the country will be spared El Nino, private weather forecasting agency Skymet says the southwest monsoon has a 50 per cent chance of being normal this year. So India is likely to have a good monsoon three years in a row creating condition for a good harvest.

But celebrations of the likelihood of good rains by farmers must await the prices they would be able to realise once their next crop is in the market. A structural weakness of the farm sector is that there is an inverse relationship between farm incomes and production. Prices of farm produce and incomes of growers tend to fall in times of bumper harvest. In this context is to be remembered that despite all the extension programmes the country is having over the decades, farm productivity here for most crops remains well below the world average, not to reckon the best that obtains in places such as Israel with the most efficient use of whatever little water is available, China and the US. To give two examples: First, Indian rice yield of 2,191 kg a hectare falls way short of the global average of 3,026 kg a hectare. Second, our wheat productivity of 2,750 kg a hectare also compares poorly with world average of 3,289 kg a hectare.

India will do well to take a lesson or two from China, which with less land than us under rice and wheat has remained at the top of world chart in terms of productivity and production volume. Thanks largely to the size of our cultivable area and normal monsoon rains in most major crop producing states in the current season (July to June), India is to have food grain production of 281.37m tonnes during 2018-19 compared with 277.49m tonnes in the previous agriculture season. Rice production is to be up 4.59m tonnes to 115.6m tonnes and wheat will be marginally better at 99.12m tonnes.

With this level of production, pressure will be building on the government to procure more rice and wheat than it normally does. Not surprisingly, therefore, the current season has seen the second highest ever wheat procurement of nearly 36m tonnes. Open market wheat prices are up by nearly 10 per cent. But with wheat MSP being pegged at ₹1,860 a quintal plus a bonus available at the state level, farmers would be inclined to give his produce to official agencies. Rice procurement is likely to be a record 45m tonnes. Procurement still falls short of expectations of farmers.

At the current level of procurement, India at the opening of 2019-20 agriculture crop year in July will have stocks of 77.2m tonnes, including 47.6m tonnes of wheat and 29.6m tonnes of rice. This will then be 36.1m tonnes higher than the ideal opening inventory for a season. Even while under the private entrepreneur guarantee scheme 15m tonne of covered space capacity has been created since 2010, safe and scientific food storage still remains a point of major concern. One also has to consider the major economic cost of storing grains well over the buffer norm. Of no less concern is the substantial loss of grains that India and many other countries suffer in the course of storage.

Should not then India be laying greater stress on crop diversification, specially progressively moving land from wheat and paddy, the latter specifically in states such as Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh where water is scarce? The 2017-18 Economic Survey says: “A diversified cropping pattern will help in mitigating the risks faced by farmers in terms of price shocks and production/harvest losses.” The Survey acknowledges that because of the enormous volume of land under cultivation, the country has “tremendous potential for crop diversification and to make farming a sustainable and profitable economic activity.” It’s time India had gone in a big way to grow high value crops, including horticulture items for which the demand is strong both within and outside the country.