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Why only Punjab, Haryana farmers are protesting against Farm Bills

Tuesday, September 22, 2020 • Tamil Comments

Why only Punjab, Haryana farmers are protesting against Farm Bills

Recently, the Parliament successfully passed three Farm Bills that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hailed as historic. The government admittedly wants to end the exploitation of farmers by middlemen by reforming the agriculture sector.

In no time, farmer groups have started protesting in larger numbers in Punjab, Haryana and, to an extent, in Wester Uttar Pradesh. There took place rallies on Monday in parts of India, like Bengaluru and West Bengal. However, by and large, the protests in these parts of the country have not been as strong as in Punjab and Haryana. Why so?

Economic commentator Vivek Kaul says that it's because the procurement system is efficient and well-developed only in Punjab and Haryana. Where the procurement system is weak, it doesn't make much difference to farmers whether APMCs get weakened and the Minimum Support Price system gets collapsed in the coming years (something that critics are saying is going to be the case) or not.

Let's analyze the numbers. "Punjab has 1,750 crore reasons to oppose Modi's plans to create mandi alternatives! That's why (Union Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal leader) Harsimrat Badal quit. Of every Rs 100 paid by the Union government to buy crops in Punjab, Rs 6 goes to the local government. Rs 2.5 goes to commission agents who do nothing since the Center buys all the crops," says senior journalist Sunil Jain. Explaining further, he adds that of the Rs 6 that goes to Punjab government agencies, Rs 3 goes to the mandis.

It's a well-established fact that only about 6-10% of farmers benefit from the Minimum Support Price regime in India. "The beneficiaries are mostly located in rich states like Punjab. This is not a farmer agitation against Modi policies, but a middleman-driven agitation," Jain says.

Agriculture journalist P Sainath has predicted that there will be huge protests by farmers across the country on September 25. It has to be seen whether farmers' leaders and opposition politicians will be able to mobilize small and marginal farmers.

For now, one thing is becoming clear. Modi's reforms have scared only big and rich farmers in only two States.

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