Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Farm Laws Erode Indian Values, Farmers’ Capacity to Produce and Sell Grains and Would Amount to Injustice if Complaints Remain Unheard

The farmers’ protest has done one good thing to the country. It has for once restored pride and confidence in a country which is badly reeling under the double whammy of a widespread Coronavirus and the resultant economic failure in the country. And one could trust the farmers of Punjab to bring us closer to life, how it actually is and what it represents, in India. In the same breath also it would do good to bring up the relevant point that the ruling government’s response to the protest should not be taken to mean that they would in any way lose relevance in case they roll back the farm laws. In fact it would be a great victory for them if they were to do so.
The protest in New Delhi, as many other protests that have been going on in the past several years, have sadly become an issue of contention between the government and some of the other groups. It gives the impression that the only way to voice one’s opinion is by totally negating the ruling government, and this makes the ruling government or its supporters always feel cornered and unable to respond with positive signals. This is one aspect of citizenry that people in India would do good to inculcate because once a government has been voted into power for its term of five years the citizenry should utilise the time, as much as the government itself also, for a purposeful venture like maybe, for instance getting the masses relieved of poverty in India, since that’s the most urgent factor in a poor country like India, rather than letting the five-year term to degrade into a sort of game of turning the tables, of which we have seen too much in Indian politics. Rather than informed debates and discussions we have every group jumping in and disagreeing, so that the whole five-year term becomes a kind of a post-election hangover, with state elections also taking place in between to heighten the pains of the poor class of men and women almost each day of their lives. At least the intelligentsia shouldn’t fall into this trap of trying to pull each other down. We need a more responsible response from a lot of people whose opinions matter to the masses.
Coming back to the farmers protest, let’s not deny it, of course everybody knows the farmers are being deprived of their rights. How could you miss that? The very idea of corporatisation is offensive to say the least, especially so in a place like India which still has a mass of farmers being pulled from all sides, as if their own labours and hardships are not enough matter for every well off Indian’s empathy. We as Indians all of us do promise each other some basic courtesy and social obligations and it’s obvious that we are cheating the class of people that is providing us the ingredient of life and sustenance – our daily requirement of food. Lakhs of farmers have committed suicide in the past several years due to failed crops and no one in any government batted an eyelid, except those who wanted, again, to gain votes or political mileage. Times may have changed economically speaking, but we can’t be so indifferent at the same time, as not to acknowledge these figures. All our economic targets and what we gained in other areas comes to nought if we do not do so.
Let’s not call the arhtiyas in Punjab and Haryana or elsewhere middlemen in a derogatory tone, because that would go against the whole Indian tradition that links farming or any other production closely with the tradesmen or merchants, who enjoy time tested credibility and role in transferring goods. We can’t allow corporatisation and the corporate mind to turn our simple farmers to become monsters who think of amassing money through a natural occupation like farming, instead of what they still do in this age, which is to run their farms and activities like running their own families, so much intricately close they are to their earth and crops. It would be an inhuman act to separate them from their occupation by offering misleading ideas of progress and civility. Corporatisation sends a wrong message, especially when it’s in the hands of only a few corporate leaders. We need a more level playing field so that manipulation and exploitation are brought down to desirably next to nothing.
Though the matter has been less taken up in Manipur, it would do good to know that as a rice consuming and producing region, Manipur imports a lot of rice from outside the state, what with repeated droughts and unseasonal flooding caused by the adverse effects of climate change destroying a lot of standing crop in the state in many previous years. The fate of not just the farmers in Manipur, but even consumers who hardly have enough to spend on other than their staple diet, depends on and is interlinked with the lot of other farmers and grain production in the country. Any losses for the farmers of the mainland also mean subsequent price rise in not only grains, but other produce also. It affects all facets of life. Nutrition for kids, school fees, malnutrition among women as they are the ones who eat last, hunger, general health – so many factors are dependent on the wellbeing of the farmers. We can’t sacrifice our lives just for the select few in corporate India to satisfy their mania for money, or for the big names in the superficial world of renowned economists who just want to prove India has gone ahead whereas the very ability of the poor masses is being snatched from them.
Repealing the three farm laws in time would do a lot of good to the country and would be a win for the government as well as the farmers. As has been suggested by some intellectuals among economists the government could even set aside a sum of a few thousand rupees to each farmer every month, as a special consideration for farmers in a poverty ridden India. The sum, as suggested by them, would be an almost negligible amount to the super rich few in the country if they were to be taxed an almost unnoticeable percentage from their earnings. This would be like the social security rich nations in the west provide to their citizens, but of course in different and acute circumstances here. We could do at least this much to avert the agrarian crisis in India, which has led to farmer suicides.
The National Crime Records Bureau started recording farmer suicide cases in 1995 and the data compiled from 1995 to 2010 reveals that over a quarter of a million farmers (2,56,913) have killed themselves. Figures have been registered in the subsequent years also and it’s just not done that we disregard the plight of the very section of people who put food on our tables. The protests this time have shown that farmers are very sensitive, with one of them from Punjab having shot himself to death as he could not bear to see the farmers suffering on the New Delhi borders. It would be a great gesture from the government if it does not let the situation turn grimmer for the farmers camping in the open this winter by rolling back the contested farm laws.

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