Repealed farm laws were an economic necessity: Agriculture economist tells Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now
GN Bureau | December 8, 2021
Agriculture economist Vijay Sardana has said that middlemen have been siphoning off farmers’ interests, and the repeal of the three farm laws that were brought in to minimise the exploitation of farmers was a political compulsion.
“There is a huge siphoning of farmers’ interests by middlemen for which these laws were required. The laws were an economic necessity for farmers of India. Farmers are the biggest losers due to the repeal of laws as the laws were brought in to minimize the exploitation of farmers that was taking place for the last 70 years.”
Sardana was in conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now during the webcast as part of the Visionary Talk series held by public policy and governance analysis platform.
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Asked if laws were beneficial for farmers why there was so much opposition from them, he said the Act allowed farmers to sell their produce outside the mandis if they did not get good prices in the APMC for which they neither had to pay a commission or tax. This would have broken the monopoly of cartels of middlemen and nobody would deal with them and was not liked by them.
Accusing the farmer leaders of losing their conscience, he said with weak farmer leaders who are sold out, those states don’t have a good future. The fact of the matter, he said, is that none of the farmer leaders are pro-farmers because farmers of India are poor and these farmers’ leaders are very rich. “They are representing the rich class that wants to exploit India and keep the majority of farmers backward... these people are actually for sale, they are funded by outside agencies. They take money from all anti-national forces in the name of farmers’ protests.
“There is a big agenda. A large number of anti-national forces in the name of farmers’ agitation ganged up and this call of withdrawal is basically to stop those forces. The agenda is designed by these so-called farmer leaders who are hand in hand with commission agents to protect them. They are puppets in the hands of anti-national forces.” He asked if these farmer leaders ever made a noise against middlemen and the APMC which is the source of exploitation and corruption and if these should be handed over to farmers’ organisations.
He said the money for agitation for farmers who are poor came from arhtiyas or middlemen who had political support as the proceeds of corruption in mandis are shared by the local administration, local politicians, and local commission agents. “All these people ganged up against reforms and for that reason, you must have seen that this gangism happened in three states where commissions are paid through taxpayers’ money, i.e., FCI (Food Corporation of India). Everyone is eyeing the taxpayers and all these exploiters want that taxpayers should continue to fund their luxuries.”
Sardana said that there is a huge difference between what the consumer is spending and paying for the crop and what the farmer is getting.
He said farmers have been denied linkage with the market, small farmers were exploited and there was acute poverty in villages especially among small farmers. Farmers are always a liability in the name of subsidy. The only money which you give for subsidy comes from taxpayers which are corporates and you kick away corporates in the name of agriculture, ‘private sector exploits’. “In such a case no farmers’ children should join the private sector for jobs. They should create their own employments which will be great for India. Their shortsightedness has ruined their state and that part of the country,” he said.
Asked if there was a looming larger threat under the garb of agitation he said, the fact is that India is a huge market of 140 crore people. “Nobody would want to lose this market…nobody wants India to progress. If it becomes self-sufficient and self-reliant… whenever there is any agitation or anti-development action in the country forces that join in are common. That is why the PM says ‘andolan jeevi’ because they survive on agitation…they are funded and fueled by anti-national forces living inside and outside India.”
Sardana said that in Punjab a sectarian divide was created between Sikhs and Hindus in the name of politics. Even the ‘Granthi’ of Akal Takht at the Golden Temple mentioned that the repeal of these Acts will now control the divisive forces which were fueling the Sikh-Hindu divide in Punjab.
He further pointed out that tubewell electricity subsidy in Punjab is Rs 55,000 per year per household because they also steal power in the name of tubewell which is used for home. “Power connections at these places have a parallel connection between household electricity. Loot is going on in the name of agriculture, farmers, and subsidy. The way farmers’ agitation has destabilised telecom towers, private warehousing, and logistic systems in Punjab, no business will risk going to Punjab,” he said.
Sardana said that India’s 60% population is farmers and taxpayers are 3%-4%. If whatever little tax that is collected is given to farmers, it is political shortsightedness. If there will be no development, R&D, education, or quality health care, there is no future for India. He said farmers get money only through consumers or the government and if you don’t connect them with consumers and they get their money from govt what is the future of this country.
On repealing the Essential Commodities Act, he said it is a big loss to infrastructure development. The country is producing 305 million tonnes of food grains and our total storage capacity, including in government and private sector, is only 85 million tonnes. “We are losing more than 1 lakh crore [tonne] food grains every year through pilferage, theft, infestation, manipulations and so many other frauds which is taxpayers’ money.”
He said these laws would have made all 6,70,000 villages in the country investment destinations as every village would have some of the other products which would require storage facility, a small grading, packing station, or processing station.. now the entire process has been derailed. No investment will come.
He also said that after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee pushed out the Tatas, the most respected ethical business house, out of the state, she is now inviting investment there.
“It appears that these farmer leaders have become pests for the agriculture itself instead of demanding better technology, infra, training, info and having mandis,” he said.
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