Farmers’ Conundrum

Sajjad Shah

The farmers of India are faced with an existential crisis which is the far-reaching consequence of their problems today under the Fascist Regime of Narendra Modi. In fact, the lowering product prices of agribusiness is a pinching fallout of this issue under the incumbent government. Moreover, the threat of monopoly of multi-national corporations over price-determination of agricultural business is the most future-affecting ramification of the peasants’ deteriorating conditions in India these days. Similarly, a vast chunk of farmers possesses a little fertile land is also a worrisome fallout of their worst circumstances in the country. As a result, economic backwardness becomes a fate-decider implication of the farming class of India during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Consequently, the burgeoning suicide rate of peasants in India is yet another fatal blowback to their issues at large.

This article would shed light on historical peasants’ movements that took place in undivided India and in Pakistan. It would also deliberate on the current situation of farmers in India. The write up would mainly focus on the factors that ignite fire among the farmers of India to opt for a general strike, on the consequences of the failure of this movement and on a few recommendations that may bring the farmers out of this doldrum situation and make their life better.

This fertile land of sub-continent is full of stories that illustrate the resilience of peasants of India and Pakistan for their rights. Among many other prominent movements, the most famous movement was ‘Hari Movement’ that took place in Sindh and was led by Haider Bux Jatoi and many other prominent figures. Similarly, Shah Inayat also shook the landlord class by mobilizing the farmers in Sindh during the British Rule in India. Indeed, these two figures played an instrumental role in relieving the peasants’ class of their depression. Nonetheless, the oppression of farmers could not come to an end. It rather kept exacerbating soon after the failed socialist economic policies of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Contrary to this, keeping the height of repression in view, the farmers have begun reorganizing themselves in Pakistan and elsewhere again. But, unfortunately, a farmer was recently shot dead in Punjab, Pakistan by the police because of his protest against the authorities. Previously, the peasants’ leader, Mehar Sattar was jailed for many years for he led the protest of Okara farms which is under the control of the military.

As far as the situation of Indian peasants is concerned, they are protesting against the newly passed reform acts on agricultural business. Although the government has tired to disperse them with different methods, yet it has flunked. Even Amit Shah held a dialogue with the leaders of the peasants, which also failed due to a clear position of farmers on the reforms. But the situation is getting quite bleak and devastating as the government seems unmoving on the recently passed laws especially under the pretext of the rising second wave of the Pandemic. Undoubtedly, the Modi government plays with lives and livelihood of peasants under the guise of Coronavirus Pandemic in the country which may backfire him in near future.

There are multitudes of reasons for farmers’ problem in India, but the most igniting factor is the passing of three new acts on agricultural business. In June 2020, the Modi government has passed three ruthless acts which have compelled the peasants to come out on roads. Furthermore, these laws snatch minimum price-protection on certain agricultural products in the country. For instance, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) act 2020, speaks of de-regularization of crop pricing. This deprives the farmers of the protection of Minimum Support Price (MSP), which currently guarantees a basic price for their produce under the previous laws. By passing new laws, the Minimum Support Prices goes away now. Thus, it flames fire among the peasants for their security for produce and hence for life.

Besides this, the fear of monopoly of private corporations is another cause of farmers’ conundrum in India today. Currently, they sell their products in the state-owned markets or mandi with the security of Minimum Support Price on certain yields, but according to new acts, they can sell on their own without the government check and balances on price leaving the multi-national corporations to exploit the market in their favor. This endangers the livelihood of peasants because it would create a cut-throat competition in the market where the poor farmers would end competing with the rich enterprises. Hence, this threat of monopolization of private corporations would ruin the little farmers and therefore becomes a reason to bring them on roads these days.

Climate change is yet another factor that is hitting the farmers of India hard. Water shortages, floods and increasingly erratic weather caused by Climate change are devastating the peasant class the most. In accordance with a Punjab government in 2017, the northern state will be faced with no groundwater by 2039. This is an alarming indicator for the life farmers. Indeed, this a cause that frustrates farmers of India and compels to go for a general strike in India.

The rising suicide rate grave aftermath of peasants issue in India nowadays. They are compelled to embrace death due to acute shortage of resources. In 2019 alone, 10,300 and since the 1990s, 300,000 farmers have committed suicide, according to the latest official figure. This is a highly gloomy condition of peasants in India. It is the consequence of their unresolved issue in the country in fact. Therefore, the burgeoning suicide rate among the farmer class is also a case in point today.

Economic backwardness of farmers is an offshoot of their problems too, which causes them to go to any extent for their livelihood. Indeed, they are faced with acute deficiency of their resources. One can understand this by looking at the possession of their land. They own very little land in India. For example, more than 85 per cent of peasants have less than two hectares (five acres) of land in accordance with a 2015-16 agriculture ministry survey. This is meagre possession in terms of their more than 70 per cent collective contribution to India’s total 2.7 trillion economy. Despite the huge contribution, they are lack in resources for themselves. This proves to be a glaring point in the economic deficit among the working class of India today.

Solutions to the farmers’ conundrum can be myriad, but the most convincing are discussed below.

In order to break the ice between farmers’ demand and the government’s rigid position, the revocation of new acts would do the work best. This would relieve the protesters. In fact, it would also save the face of Modi government and rescue the future of farmers’ livelihood. The revocation would also stop neo-liberal policies to exploit the working class once again in the country. So, the revoking of new laws would be a solution to the problem now.

Moreover, to create a strong foundation of farmers’ movements, the leaders need to stand in solidarity with other peasants’ movements across the borders irrespective their personal interests. Like, the Okara Farms Peasants need to stand with the Indian and Srilankan peasants and vice versa and beyond. Particularly, the South Asian peasants are in dire need to work together for their rights to be guaranteed in the future.

There is also a need for full-fledged working-class movements keeping the increasing atrocities and repression of peasants’ class in the South Asian countries these days. Thus, full-fledged movements would also deter the Fascist and populist government to exploit this class anymore. It would bring the revolutionary zeal back into the peasant class.

All in all, the farmers of India are confronted with unthinkable consequences of their conundrum in India. They are facing food shortages. Similarly, the peasants possess little irrigated land is a fallout of their malaises. Water shortage is also breaking the backbone of its agriculture economy. There is an issue of air pollution that is an offshoot of their collective issues too. Indeed, the already zero Minimum Support Price on certain edible products like oil, potato etc. is yet another effect of their conundrum today. Nonetheless, the revocation of new acts, solidarity zeal and full-fledged working-class movements would bring any government to its kneel before the farmers India today.

All in all, the farmers of India are confronted with unthinkable consequences of their conundrum in India. They are facing food shortages. Similarly, the peasants possess little irrigated land is a fallout of their malaises. Water shortage is also breaking the backbone of its agriculture economy. There is an issue of air pollution that is an offshoot of their collective issues too. Indeed, the already zero Minimum Support Price on certain edible products like oil, potato etc. is yet another effect of their conundrum today. Nonetheless, the revocation of new acts, solidarity zeal and full-fledged working-class movements would bring any government to its kneel before the farmers of India today.

This article has shed light on historical figures who led peasants’ movement in undivided India and in Pakistan, has spelt out on the current situation of Indian farmers, has tracked down the factors that ignite fire among the Indian peasants, illustrated the consequences which bring these workers at a crossroad, and has recommended a few convincing solutions to the problem of peasants of India and other today.

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