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  • kewal sethi

the farm laws

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

the farm laws and its withdrawal

reactions are needed for the withdrawal of the three farm laws. but first some points outside this topic. one of my friends posed certain questions, the reply to them, i deferred because it requires cool consideration rather than just reactions, unconsidered and uncontemplated. i did not want to avoid them even if the questions were posed in a state of excitement of winning (?) a battle.

  1. it is said that questions have been asked from many saffornites but none has replied. they are either hiding or are ashamed to reply. it is said that question was addressed to me because i have the same ideology ( which he called a saffronite ideology).

to this i can only say that the farm laws and ideology are two different things. the farm laws do not flow out of ideology. it is basically wrong to club them. talking about ideology, is simple. it is that we are one nation. if we are one, there is no room for giving preferential treatment to any group based on religion or otherwise. to that extent articles 29 and 30 are against the fundamental point of being one nation. by all means help those who are backward but not on the basis of religion, caste, place of residence, race or anything else. veto power cannot be given to any group in deciding policy or the laws. perhaps this is not acceptable to some who, like our ex prime minister, would say minorities have first right on national assets.

talking about saffronisation, the fact is that i am proud to be a hindu, proud about our past, proud about our heroes. i take pride in the philosophy which guides hinduism or hindutava or sanatan dharam or whatever name you call it by. it is the only philosophy which teaches tolerance of different views. i need not quote the couplet which everyone is aware of. no other philosophy tolerates opposition. there are factions within them which cannot stand each other. i do not grudge them their views but i do resent having my views depreciated and ridiculed and i see nothing wrong in asserting my proud heritage or nothing wrong standing up to any criticism thereof.

  1. the safronites have not replied. they seem to be hiding.

perhaps they have not replied because they have seen the futility of doing so. you can wake up a man who is sleeping but if the man insists on keeping his eyes closed despite being awake, it is no use to call him to wake up. it will be a waste of effort. perhaps i am foolhardy to attempt an explanation. but still!

  1. salient features of the farm laws could not be found even after a year. could i explain them, was the question posed.

surprising. if the points made in these laws could not be understood, what was being opposed. was the whole opposition based on rumours, deliberately propagated?

  1. coming to salient points, the first was farmers can sell their produce to anyone. they need not sell it at places designated (called mandies) by the state government. what is wrong about it. the designated places are not excluded. if the farmers want to sell their produce there, no one is stopping them.

explanation is required why this is troubling some people. the produce was being bought by the trader in the village who also duplicated as money lender, and also provider of such things as cloth, groceries etc. the exploitation was there. i know of a case in which farmer sold cotton and got a good amount for it. the purchaser told him that keeping so much money at home is not safe. he will keep it safe for him. the farmer agreed. the mahajan charged him for keeping his money safe. the farmer bought some cloth on the same date. it was shown as 'on credit' in the books and he was being charged for it. this happens now also. i bought tickets to united kingdom on credit card. visa was not issued so the tickets were cancelled. the amount went to the bank. i withdrew rs 10000 on the credit card thinking that i had a balance much more than that. i was charged interest for it. (on protest, the amount was refunded as a one time concession).

in order to give relief from such practices, mandies were constituted where the farmer had to sell his produce at a designated place under the supervision of officers. the exploitation by the mahajan was sought to be ousted. the officers managed (or mismanaged) the mandies. in due course the bug of democracy bit the course of action and elected bodies came in. good to begin with, they deteriorated as vested interests took over. arbitrary grading of material brought to the mandies robbed the farmer of his dues. the arhtiyas, by themselves, or in collusion with mandi committee, established an oligarchy (if that is the correct word, otherwise cartel) and the exploitation continued.

it was to remove this irritant that it was envisaged to allow farmer to sell anywhere and to anyone. the farmer of today is not the same simple and ignorant person as of sixties of the last century. he know about the price offered and knows about quality of his goods.

obviously this was not liked by the arhtiyas and the traders who, therefore had to fund the agitation. the poor farmer could hardly afford it to be away from his farm. but if paid appropriately, others could be found. the sitting on dharna by old men, women and children could only be through financing. their purses were deep and they stood to lose most, hence the protest had to be continued.

b. the second salient feature – free movement of produce from one state to another

thanks to the green revolution, unbridled irrigation facilities, food habits and other qualifications, the paddy produced in punjab could not be consumed in the state. it had to be transported. the best agency was food corporation of india. it could be coerced into procurement. there are reports of sub standard grains (sometime only to defraud the farmer, it was called sub standard) being purchased by the traders passed on the food corporation as standard grains benefiting both the traders and the employees of the corporation. with stiff opposition from the outside traders (or corporates as you will like to specify), these practices would be thwarted. with direct purchase from the farmers and direct transport to other states, the game was up. there was nothing in the act to forbid the trader from sending it to other states on his own. but there was a hitch. the purchase and sale had to be documented and that meant cst and income tax. much easier to sell it to food corporation showing the produce in the name of a farmer. if you block this route and let outsiders take over, the whole economy of these traders is thwarted. their ire can easily be understood.

the corporates will take over. maybe they will. they can afford the large outlay that is required. they have the machinery and men to facilitate it. they can build large size warehouses to store it and safeguard it from pests and thieves. it is estimated that fifteen percent of grains are lost to rats and other pests. safeguarding is a profitable business and corporates can do it while individual stockist cannot. (of course they can rent the space but the warehouses have to be there first).

what is wrong with corporates benefitting from this arrangement. they are not foreigners. they are regulated enterprises with company law and other laws. and they are public companies with a large body of shareholders. there are 29, 45, 043 individual shareholders in reliance corporation with investment up to rs. two lakhs (as on 30 september 2021). while 49.14 % of shares are with promoters (meaning ambani and others of the family), rest are with institutions and individuals. it is political expediency, nothing more, to name adani and ambani as the only beneficiaries of these farm acts.

c. third salient feature – contract farming

the company (or individual) enters into agreement to buy the produce at a specified rate. there is no compulsion. it is a contract.

this is nothing new. in western part of uttar pradesh, it is a common thing for sugarcane grower. there is a tripartite contract among the farmer, the purchaser and the bank (or the financier). the bank gives the loan, the purchaser provides seed and other inputs, the farmer the labour and, of course, the land. under the act, this arrangement is sought to be extended to other crops and other areas. such contracts are also there between pepsico and potato growers.

of course, there are complaints. the purchaser, in a bad year, makes all sorts of excuses to get out of the contract. in some cases the purchaser does not provide good seed and refuses to buy output classifying it a s sub standard. banks do their bit by extracting their pound of flesh.

the remedy is in the farm acts. the sub divisional magistrates will look into such complaints instead of civil courts. civil courts are notorious for time consuming procedures. cases go on for years. the very purpose of justice is defeated. the civil courts are not known to be watched closely. the superior courts are too busy and too aloof from the society to care about delays. the administrative courts are under direct supervision of the government and hence accountability is there. this provision is, therefore, in the interest of the farmer. only the inborn prejudice against such courts condemns this provision as retrograde. the stake holders – the purchasers, the courts, the lawyers – are never in a hurry and the poor farmer (except the like of robert vadra, chidambaram) have no voice and no purse. here again the opposition is from the vested interests.

2. now for the points raised

  1. agitation was described as sponsored by anti nationals, communists, terrorists, cowards. why now the acts are being withdrawn.

those who described it so can answer these questions. i am not there to defend them. they are much better at it. having said that, it is clear from what i have written above that the vested interests are against the farm acts which are beneficial to common farmers. these vested interests are not interested in farmers, only in themselves.

a lot of pulses were being imported, chiefly from canada. in canada, the punjabi lobby is quite strong – four of ministers in trudeau ministry are punjabies – and they stand to lose by ban on import of pulses (which was done some time back). their support for any anti modi agitation - be it against caa, or the farm acts - is dictated by that consideration. their financing the agitation can be understood. the langar for shahin bagh was part of it as also now the offer of gurudwaras for namaz.

'the enemy of enemy is a friend' is an old saying. hence the political parties have to jump in. they may be communists, congress, socialists or others. the main aim of terrorists is to disrupt the normal life of citizens. so their sympathy and, occasionally, intrusion is on the expected lines. it is not to say that all of the protesters belong to that category but their presence cannot be ruled out. if, so far, they could not get an opportunity to exploit it further the credit may go to the government (it is bound to be offensive remark for the protagonist of the protesters).

b. why did the government withdraw the acts if they were good.

in the serial 'yes prime minister' (published in book form), there is a saying "why is it that a decision which is administratively, economically, technically wrong is politically right". the present decision, probably, falls in that category. if it pays dividend, it will be worth it. there is also a saying "discretion is better part of valour". another saying also hits me. it is "bide your time. when it comes, nothing shall stand in the way".

anyway it is not for me to defend the decision. but i can say this positively - india needs modi. (why? but that will need another write up)

c. what does withdrawal prove.

it does not prove that initial decision was wrong. there were valid reasons for them and they still are valid.

it does, however, prove that as a nation, we are immature. we believe in opposition for opposition sake. we make all sorts of excuses to oppose. we are unable to counter with reasons so we resort to falsehoods. we will disrupt the parliament to avoid discussing an issue. we will supports mobs when it suits us.

i mentioned in one comment that words are being said because the intoxication of victory has infiltrated our minds and brains. there is no cool thinking about impact of decision. it is apparent that we are trying to replace democracy with mobocracy.

no laws are ever passed by any country in the world after consulting the affected parties (or those who claim to be affected). the governments do not raise rate of taxes after consulting the tax payers. the judges do not take decisions after consulting the affected parties (both of them – in any case both cannot concur otherwise they would not be in the court).

d. the final points – the outcome

in my immediate comments, i had written "i see disaster ahead. it will only whet the appetite".

owaisi said "this government is afraid when people come on the road. our next target will be caa".

mehbooba. national conference urge prime minister to revoke 2019 decision (re article 370)

navjot singh sidhhu said that if you want to double farmers income, you must double msp (minimum support price).

such demands are bound to grow. mobs will take to the roads, hold up traffic and railway trains, destroy the towers of ambani and adani. hold the whole nation to ransom because of the impression that this government can be browbeaten by protests, violent or otherwise. a miniscule of section of people can bring the whole nation to a halt. self styled activists will feel emboldened to disrupt all progressive measures – building of roads, laying down of rail tracks, privatisation of industries and whatever may suit them at any given point.

that is why i am sad, very sad, over this decision.

i recall a trivial situation. the government of madhya pradesh decided to auction foreign liquor shops. i, as excise commissioner, opposed it. i said it would be nothing but a measure leading to exploitation. i was overruled. the auction took place. as a duty bound officer, i did my best to make it a success. the amounts received were significantly higher than what was envisaged. the finance secretary gloated over it and pointed out that my opposition was wrong. i told him that i still feel that it would be a bad decision. the immediate success does not matter. the process of auction was my duty and i did it but it does not affect my argument. later events proved me right long after i had gone. it is the same with this decision.

it is going to cost us a lot.

as i said earlier, i do not expect even an iota of change in the attitude of readers of this article. but i cannot refrain from commenting on a controversy when i am called upon to do it.


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