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Articles

Memoranda for Submission to the Chief Ministers of the Two Telugu States.

Articles

Agitation of Farmers Against the Three Farm Laws (2020)

 

Dt :2/2/21

Agitation of Farmers Against the Three Farm Laws (2020)

Dr T H Chowdary*

 

The stubborn and prolonged agitation of farmers predominately from  Punjab  and around Delhi,  for the past  many weeks calls for  a fundamental appraisal  of  farming/agriculture  in the country and the farmers’ economic situation.  Farming is essential because without food production,  people  won’t survive and the nation cannot  thrive. That farming and related trades and the people engaged in them should be specially treated is accepted by all nations.   It is this  universal acceptance of the special situation of farmers and farming that has, over the decades in our country led to the following  special treatment:

·         For the last several years,  every year Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 1 lakh cr  of  farmers’ debt is  written off  or given to the   farmer as input subsidy etc. 

·         While  all property owners have to pay  a property tax, farmers owning land  are not to pay any  property tax. 

·         The agricultural incomes are exempt from income tax. 

·         Fertilizers are heavily subsidized  by the  Union Government  

·         Water is given to  them free although  it costs a lot to store and distribute water.

·         Waters  are lifted from the rivers and distributed. The cost of  the electrical installations  and  cost of energy for lift irrigation are borne by the  state and not by the beneficiary farmers. This  runs into  thousands of crores of rupees .

·         In certain states,  farmers’  crops are  insured.  The insurance premium is borne by the  state itself.

·          In order to ensure  that the  cost of farmer’ s produce is not more than  a price that the crops get ,  Union  and the State governments  procure  a number of farm products at the  Minimum Support Price (MSP) .

 

2. All this financial support to the  farmer and   farming  is  considered essential for a nation  to be fed . To implement the Food Security  Act, government is the single largest buyer of   paddy and  wheat and this at the minimum support price. It feeds over 80 cr of people under  Food Security   by supplying wheat and   rice to the  poor people at no price or nominal price to them. The Food Security  provision  alone  is costing  the government  something like Rs. 60,000 cr a year.

3. The input costs for farming have increased  by leaps and bounds  because of the introduction if   Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme under which the  labouring people in    rural areas are paid wages  for  very little work for scores of days . Therefore the wages for labour    has increased,  especially during  transplantation, harvesting  and preparation of the land  for transplantation  as these are season- bound and whatever is the wage,  labour has to be  engaged.

4. All these costs  are being   incurred  by the nation in the conviction that  food production is essential.  But is food alone sufficient for people to live    and prosper ?  Are not  health services and medicines   and education not essential ?  Without good  health  and  some  amount of  education , what will be the people worth ? Improvement of the people is also  a social good  that has to be undertaken by the  State . But are we spending even  a fraction of what is being  given as  subsidies for farming, for  the health workers that is,  doctors and nurses and  education workers,  that is    teachers  and lecturers? While asserting   that the  State’s spend on  farmers is justified  whatever  the cost , will the medicine  men, health workers  and teaching people   be justified  to  agitate like the farmers    and stall  health  services  and education services?

            By raising these questions I am not inciting or pitting the  men in the   medical,  health and  education services against farmers. But they  are also  essential   has got to be accepted . Would they be justified in  demanding    that they would stop  medicating and teaching unless they are    given   such consideration and value  and remuneration  as farmers? In Belgium, teachers pay is exempt from  income tax.

 

5. Actually, in India  the present system of farming and agriculture cannot be sustained for long.  This situation was foreseen by the greatest economist, statesman,  law- maker and reformer,  the late Dr B R Ambedkar.  In the Manifesto for the SC Caste Federation of India  to fight the  first general elections in 1952, he postulated that  the problem of  poverty and   agriculture are linked . His positions was :

 

·         The population is increasing  enormously . It must be controlled by drastic measures.

·          The land for farming per person  is coming down  precipitously because of  uncontrolled rise in population and partition of the father’s holding among children,

·         Because of the division of the property,  the land inherited by family members is  distributed   in different     areas of farming,  thus reducing the size of  farm land  per farmer, in successive  generations and the small one  distributed in different locations.

·         Agriculture must be radically reorganized. The agricultural land  should be consolidated  into  contiguous  economic units of say 10 acres and   given to  those who actually cultivate  it.

 

6. This involves the acquisition of farm land by the  State,  compensating  the  owner. Banks  were nationalized.  The  share holders of the banks  were compensated . For eg:  the  person whose land  is taken over  can be given    a bond which  gives  in perpetuity  a reasonable  payment  linked to the inflation. 

 

7. Agriculture should be  mechanized. Government should establish machine tractor stations and the machinery should  be given on hire to farmers who can’t afford to buy and own  the machinery.

 

8. A paper which  was written  by me  and published in the journal South  Asia Politics is appended herewith. It is my  request that the experts whom the Supreme Court  constituted a committee to study the issues raised by the  farmers agitation and suggest a solution,  may kindly go through Dr .Ambedkar’s  analysis and remedy. (955 words)


END