Farmers protest at the Haryana-Delhi border at Singhu | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Farmers protest at the Haryana-Delhi border at Singhu | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

A bizarre logic is being deployed by the Narendra Modi government and a section of media in the current standoff with the farmers: the recipient of an unwanted gift is being asked to be reasonable, not reject the gift, and find a “beech ka rasta”, or middle ground. The Modi government’s latest ‘proposal’ to the protesting farmers is being touted as just that middle ground. The government that put every possible obstacle to prevent farmers from reaching Delhi is being lauded for its sensitivity. When farm leaders stick to what they always said was non-negotiable, they are accused of shifting the goalpost. The government frames not just its own response, but also what the farmers should be saying. Intransigence of the Modi government is presented as the rigidity of the protesters. Power has an amazing capacity to twist logic, to invent facts, to define what is reasonable.

Let’s not forget that the present protest began with what Prime Minister Narendra Modi described as a saugaat, a gift to the farmers, nothing short of a “historic” bonanza. Now, accepting or not accepting a gift should normally be a voluntary affair. The gift givers either already know what the recipients want, or check with them. Otherwise, it should be reasonable for the recipient to say “No, thank you”, in case they don’t like the gift. Unless, of course, the gift is not a gift at all, unless it is a sugar-coated pill that must be administered to an unwilling patient. (Incidentally, that is how pro-government economists present these farm laws, a bitter pill that could only be administered under the cover of a pandemic).

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Also read: Why Congress has consistently failed to translate farmer outreach into election wins


A bounty farmers don’t want

This straightforward reasoning has been given a go-by in this instance. It is clear that the government did not bother to check with the farmers or farmers’ organisations, not even with their in-house Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, before offering this “bounty”. By now, it is also clear that this gift has no takers, at least none among the multitude of farm organisations in the country.

As for the farmers themselves, a Gaon Connection survey carried out a couple of months ago, much before the agitation hit its peak, found them apprehensive, if not hostile. The farmers are simply saying: “Thanks, please take your gift back. Instead, give us what we want, namely legal guarantee of remunerative price for our produce.” The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the joint banner for the current protest, has consistently asked for the repeal of the three farm laws. The same demand has been repeated in every single round of talks with the government. They have repeatedly clarified that this is non-negotiable. Yet the Modi government and a section of media feigns surprise when the farmers insist upon it.


Also read: From debt to unemployment, Punjab’s entire economy needs reform, not just agriculture


New proposals are rehash

The Modi government’s latest “proposal” to the agitating farmers invited a straight-forward rejection. The 20-page document, print out of a PPT, sent by the government repeated the platitudes and propaganda that the ruling dispensation has been using for the last few months. Besides, there is a too-clever-by-half attempt to mention some previous committees involving Congress leaders, so as to implicate the opposition parties in the government’s action. No wonder the government forgot to mention the 2011 report of the Chief Ministers’ committee headed by then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi that recommended legal status for Minimum Support Price (MSP). The “new” proposals are just a rehash of what the ministers said to the farmers’ delegation on 5 December.

The nine-point proposal contains nothing about the Amendment to the Essential Commodities Act that the farmers had objected to because it would encourage hoarding and price manipulation. Presumably, the government is determined not to make any changes in this law that would help agri-business plans of the likes of Adani Agri Logistics Limited. Similarly, it has little to offer on the proposed punishment for the farmers under the air pollution ordinance, except a vague promise of redressing farmers’ objections. On the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020, the government assures that farmers’ bills won’t be affected, without specifying how. The farmers are not amused.


Also read: Too little democracy is why India’s reforms and progress are stymied


On MSP, no legal guarantee coming

The much-publicised “concession” on the issue of Minimum Support Price is most disappointing. The government proposes to “give written assurance regarding the present MSP based procurement system”. It is clear that the government is not going to offer a legal guarantee that the farmers had asked for. There is no mention of accepting the comprehensive cost-based formula (C2+50 per cent) recommended by the Swaminathan Commission for calculating the MSP. It is also clear that the government does not want to commit to going beyond the existing levels of meagre procurement. The farmers feel insulted.

The proposed amendments appear more substantial in the APMC bypass law [Farmers’ Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act] and the contract farming law [The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act]. The media reports that the private mandis will be charged the same fees and put under similar regulation as the APMCs, but the government proposal merely says that the state governments will be given the power to do so. Whether they actually do so or not is still an open question. The proposal does not address the real need of most of the farmers for more and better functioning APMCs, nor does it address their apprehension about the possible collapse of APMCs. Similarly, the government proposes to address the fears about alienation of land under contract farming, but offers nothing to correct the unequal bargaining position of the farmers in a contractual arrangement with corporates. The farmers feel they are being taken for a ride.

Yet the media seeks to shift the onus on to the farmers: now that the government is willing to amend these laws, why do you insist on repealing these? The farmers can only repeat what they have been saying all along: We never asked for amendments. Since we do not agree with the intent and the basic framework of these laws, we cannot possibly agree to amendments, major or minor. Can’t we say NO to your gift? Is it about us and our wellbeing, or about the PM’s prestige, his ego?

Or they could quote the famous Punjabi revolutionary poet Avtar Singh Pash, incidentally someone who was killed by Khalistani militants: “Beech ka rasta nahin hota”. At least on some matters, at least at some points in history, we must not look for the middle path.

The author is the national president of Swaraj India. Views are personal.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. One hundred percent biased views of a socialist leader. India has lowest farm output per hectare in the world, in spite of fertile land. China is way ahead of us in farm out put. To feed 140 billion population, farm out has to be increased and storage improved and modernized. Farm output cannot increase without mechanization of farming techniques and farmers are reluctant to invest because of high cost of “high tech machinery”. The only way left is reforming the farm sector so that investors come forward to invest in machinery and storage. But why they will come if the age old system is not reformed and they do not see any profit on their investment ? Governments can function on “no profit no loss” or offset losses from one sector to another – like freebies provided to farmers are born by other consumers, corporates cannot. Reforms certainly pinch “some”, but benefit most ( and the nation ). Like 1991 reforms when for example, Auto sector, Airlines, Telecom and Banking sector was opened, the old players who had monopoly in these sectors cried hoarse – but consumer was benefitted. The socialists were vary of reforms then too. Manmohan Singh the champion reformist, left the farm sector untouched (fearing of backlash, similar to what we see today). Result ? The farm out remained same what it was after green revolution. If farm output is not increased, India will again become a net importer of agriculture products.

    • China is more than socialist, it is communist. It can feed its people. So there is nothing wrong with socialism or communism.

      ‘ Like 1991 reforms when for example, Auto sector, Airlines, Telecom and Banking sector was opened, the old players who had monopoly in these sectors cried hoarse – but consumer was benefitted.’

      The difference is that in 1991, they allowed many players. Now privatisation is proposed with two shady Gujarati business men. So where will be the competition that benefits consumers ? The BJP’s aim is to create an oligarchy – benefit a few Gujarati businessmen who will finance and support the BJP and keep out opposition. A private monopoly is worse than a public monopoly.

  2. Why should the taxes I pay be used to fund farmers? If the farmers can’t farm then perhaps they should do something else they CAN do like everybody else. Farmers should not be treated like some “annadaata” nonsense by the media, I pay for everything I eat and if I can get food cheaper from Africa or US then I should also have that choice. Gov. backs out of every FDA deal which will benefit most industries because farmers don’t know how to do their jobs where even a high income country manages to produce produce cheaper than them even after travelling 11000 kms to get here. I get the money I have after taking a lot of shit from a variety of people for 8-10 hrs everyday day. Why should I be made to carry the burden for all the incompetent in the country be it BSNL, Farmers, PSUs and Air India? after all that I’m also at the receiving end of lip by professional activists like YY(the man’s voice and tone is irritating, Why can’t the man talk like a normal person? I get that his mother dropped him on his head and he became a derivative of a Communist but the man can atleast manage to speak like normal human, or maybe he is trying to copy gay dudes from Bollywood movies).

    Kissan apna Khet Mere Khoon se Seechna chahta hai.

    (I apologise if the irritating manner of YY’s is the result of permanent brain damage from the time his mother tried to throw him away (which is both sad and understandable) or if he really is gay (although I think he could still speak like a normal human maybe watch less of Tushaar Kapoor starrers). YY is either a piece of S**t through and through or just an average simpleton who is only capable of making decisions after taking the crutch of an ideology because his own brain is simply incapable of making choices probably because of the time his mother tossed him away.

  3. If the Panjab farmer does not like private player why not turn farming as a whole into a public enterprise. Let the land belong to the government. The government will hire employees for tilling, sowing, harvesting.

  4. I am not sure if author really thinks this way or he saying assuming most others are fool. The minority of farmers protesting are not all farmer and they don’t have authority to accept or reject anything for the whole country. The elected government has all right to pass a bill and a bill passed in parliament cannot be forced out by protesting fews. Most of the farmers are not with the protests and they are more than willing to accept these laws as they will make their life better.

    • Really? Then let the govt brush them aside and don’t talk to them. They won’t do that. Did the whole country participate in the Anna Hazare agitation? But the then govt took it seriously and agreed to bring the law. It was Modi-autocracy which turned against the law and all anti-corruption bodies.

  5. YY ji, finally you have typed out a cogent article – something that has clear points which can be looked and deliberated upon. Unfortunately other than calling you “urban naxal, ” most commentators (as is usual with the right wing) have not been able to take on your arguments with any logical counter-argument. So the lesson for you (and the farmers) is clear. The right wing starting from the PM either do not understand or do not wish to engage with you on specifics. They are just playing for time till all of you can be driven back with brute force – for details refer to the events in Delhi in February 2020. Let us wait for the outcome in the coming weeks (and months).

  6. Yogendra Yadav is taking too much of sides. Other than him there are many intellectuals who found Farm-laws to be good. Punjab and Haryana are not India, of course they are part of India. In various pockets of India, Narendra Modi’s opponents are grinding their axe on him for political reasons and they gathered now a bunch of farmers, that does not mean the agitation is pan-India. In the South agriculture was liberated to a great extent. So, they do not feel the pinch.

    • ‘Other than him there are many intellectuals who found Farm-laws to be good.’

      Which ‘ other intellectuals’ ? The RSS has none. They do silly drills in their ugly cheddis.

  7. Mr. Yadav should explain us what is sanctity of laws. If laws are to repealed on threat of non-peaceful means i.e. creating law and order situations then are we suppose to live in anarchy where traders will say they do not want to pay income tax, consumers will say they do not want to pay GST and corporates will say they do not want to honor loan repayments.

  8. Anna movement gave two hypocrite politicians to India . Number one is a CM whose government notifies the recently enacted Farms bills in the last week of November 2020 and in the first week of December stands in crowd of mis-informed farmers opposing those very bills. He is none other than honorable CM of NCT of Delhi. Another is a self-declared redeemer of India who is filled with HATE-MODI mindset and will oppose every action, speech, work done or contemplated, by Modi or BJP irrespective of the merits or demerits of action, inaction ,speech or any work. Surprising , He is being provided space regularly by ThePrint without reading the comments about his writings in its own web-portal. Modi is right or wrong has been decided by the voters of India many times since 2002. He is there where a person like Modi should be. He will be there as long as he keeps on working for India .

    • Fair enough, you have ur opinion and a space in print put it out so does mr. Yogendra Yadav. Anna movement also gave something to BJP and Modi, which you know well

  9. Yogendra Yadav could have offered a positive step — he will work for free helping farmers make contracts with corporations so that the former does not get cheated.
    But that is actual work. It is easier to be an anti-modi intellectual.

      • Dr. Goebbels did say ‘we do not want Jewish intellectualism’.

        Instead, he relied on German storm troopers. The RSS is modelled on that. Even after Germany failed, and gave up on that model, the RSS is working with it.

  10. 1.Parliament has passed3 legislations for agricultural reforms .If modifications are necessary the aggrieved parties can always approach the Govt for amendments. To ask for total withdrawal is something unheard of in a democratic system. If the Govt withdraws Farmers Bills there will be chain reactions and demands will come for withdrawal of CAA and other bills.
    It is a pity persons like Mr.Yogendra Yadav who should work for prosperity of the country works for stopping the progress just because he hates MODIJI.

  11. YY’s YoYo logic! I know you are desperate for some kind relevance and trying to find your space. But people have become more intelligent than you give them credit for. They see through what is driving these protests. Even economists who do not like Modi is not vocal against the much needed reforms. Granted that Modi government could have implemented it in a better way. Please be reasonable and try to come up with a solution. Your protest everything era is gone!

  12. Y. Yadav is an excellent analyst and thinker but a third rate politician. Just for scoring a political point he is willing to harm Indian Agriculture by being totally inflexible and adamant. The government has proposed a virtual/indirect repeal of the Agri bills. But Yadav and company are not content with this. They want total political surrender by the government. If in the process, Indian Agriculture gets permanently damaged, Yadav and company is not bothered. This is sickening lack of intellectual integrity, to put it mildly.

  13. We got a gift of choice and affordability when new rules were framed on cable TV subscriptions after a majority stake in Hathway was bought by the Ambanis.

    As of now, I have less choice and pay way, way more!

  14. Extremely disappointing to read this from YY ji. From his stint an AAP to now trying to give intellectual support (unsuccessfully) to the unconstitutional threats of rail rokos and rasta rokos by farmers who are either misled or just don’t want to compete and want to be a drain on India’s finances, YY ji has come a long way. What baffles me about the opposition to these reforms is not only are they wrong, not only are they not giving solutions, they are asking to go back to the very system that has forced hundreds of our farmers into suicides, depleted our water tables, gave rise to hidden hunger, choking our capital with bad air, draining india of its finances all the while not even benefiting the farmer.

    Ever since the horrible “suggestions” YY ji and his co gave the govt about taking over people’s cash and wealth to counter the pandemic to now opposing opening up of farm reforms, Yy ji has proved he’s the most communist “leader” in india today. The same ideology that condemned 2-3 generations after 1947 to poverty & dwarfed the possibility of robust market economy.

    YY ji’s hatred for Modi forces him to even betray our farmers, India’s growth story, and a chance (perhaps the only one) to reform India’s agri.

    Yy ji, you are at the wrong side of history. We shall remember you the way economic historians remember the bombay club for trying to stop 1991 reforms.

    • Very well articulated.

      Hard to empathize with the stand that YY has taken on this matter. He is definitely on the wrong side of history on this.

    • Interesting reply by a bhakt. Long but without substance! Just like amendments offered by Govt. Not a single word about why the govt is shying away from making MSP a law?
      In a country where even laws are not respected, there to expect a written peice of paper is worthless.

      • Ha…call me a bhakt? Well you dont seem to have a counter. So let’s just label people seems to be your way. Anyway coming to your point pakku ji, the reason msp isn’t in the law is it is nutty economics. The market, even if you institute msp, will inevitably run on supply and demand. Either msp will lead to inflation forcing rbi to up the interest rates hurting growth, or it will not be followed at all. Look i am not unsympathetic to the poor farmers. Instead of msp, the govt can increase kisan samman nidhi from 6k to 10k or so…provide a better safety net to all the poor (farmer or not). That way you don’t try to unsuccessfully defy economics with very bad results, & the poor will have direct cash in hand. Think long and hard instead of trying to label me a bhakt. Nice name pakku btw.

  15. Someone from BJP must take sincere effort in making the farmers understand about the law. Not all the farmers are against the law though there are farmers who are against it. Some may like the gift and some may not, it is individual’s decision on how to use it.

  16. Did the farmers take Shri Yadav as a part of their delegation for negotiations? Without this disclosure how do we know to what extent he understands the minds of the farmers?

  17. I thought, Theprint was politically nuetral, but not so fast it seems. All these laws are what I would call laws enforcing “”voluntary action””. The farmer is just being made independent of any government intervention. In regard to the bargaining power, a question arises as to why cooperatives like AMUL can’t be farmer LED and farmer owned.

  18. Farmer gets free electricity, free water, no interest loans, no income tax, Rs 6000 from modi government, fertilizers for free and zillion other things. What does a middle class person get? Nothing..Zilch..Until farming is treated like any other profession, farmers will always be poor because there is no incentive for them to be efficient and ingenuous. Are all other professions second grade to farming? Why should a carpenter or plumber not get MSP to fit a screw or fix your leaking tap? Lets give all professions MSP. Why should the middle class pay for all the farmer excesses. My annadata are not farmers. My annadata are my parents who worked hard without any government largesse to put food on the table and give us education. Food wasnt given to us free by farmers.

    If private companies are so bad, dont take salary from a private firm, bank only in SBI, talk only BSNL, drive only ambasador, drink only campa cola, grow your own food, study in government colleges n school and get healthcare and insurance from government hospitals. The list is just too long and will make your life horrible like it was for a long time until 1991 when the private sector changed India.

    Farmers grow a lot of other things like fruits, vegetables, spices etc except wheat and rice which are not covered under MSP. Are they second class citizens too? Or should government promise to buy all the farm produce at MSP? Why not do that and go back to stone age because there wont be any money left to do anything else.

    • Absolutely correct. We should have MSP for services. I will offer the government only what skill I have. Government will have to procure my services . Government cannot say ‘No’ . Government will have to set a good price for it every year. Private players will not be allowed. I don’t care if the nations needs my skills or not, the government will have to keep paying for it .

    • Free water is the right of every single living being. And they get nothing of your list for free, nothing. No 6000 of course. I say Modi gets for free all the luxury and the attention. Why does he get so many votes for free, for his political gimmicks and jumlas or for his luxurious yoga and fake hindutva.

      Farmers are the foundation of our society and just like our soldiers they are first grade of anything. But in reality, farmers often ask this question of yours: is farming and farmers are second grade to all others. No one else has to come to the road in bone chilling cold, in scorching heat, against unrelenting rains, against all the repressions. You are a completely superficial person and an ignorant. And your argument is completely illogical and false. I don’t have so much time to correct every of your stupidity.

      Farmers are India and India is farming. Everything else, and certainly your bullshit are after the stomach is fully stuffed.

  19. Why don’t you mention anything about the excessive surplus that GOI is buying from farmers. Isn’t this misutilizing of the peoples taxes.

    Why can’t governments or columnists like you encourage the farmers to diversify the cultivation to reduce the farm imports.

    How does the essential commodity act hurts farmers interests rather than consumers with praise hike. Even for which the amendment mentions that government could exercise control if there is unusual price hike like morethan 100% or exceeding an average of last year or 5 years price. Also state the facts how many countries have this type of law and their economic situation.

    Also why should GOI purchase the majority of paddy or wheat procurement from Punjab, what about rest of india.

    Also theprint why are not labeling this article as opinion on your home page when displaying as the home page top item like as explicit fact reportable item.

  20. and sir, since when the gift taker is only limited to Punjab. what about the rest of India or they not part of India in your political narrative.
    Let’s get this straight. you are a failed politician and have been thrown out of your own party. Now you are looking for relevance. Fight an election and people tell you your real worth. Keep making this drama. Modiji becomes stronger with each passing day.

  21. Salim bhai can NEVER FORGET or FORGIVE what happened in AYODHYA.

    He wants revenge and is angered by loss of status he enjoyed as a formidable anti HINDU PROPAGANDIST under congrass rule.

    He was there with anti CAA PROTESTORS and RIOTERS as one of their own.

    Now he sees an opportunity for spreading misinformation amongst farmers as he has successfully infiltrated the ultra left wing radicals.

  22. Mr Yogendra Yadav perhaps does not believe in democracy and always in protest mode only. No positive work , only opposing. If agitating farmers group have capacity , then they should elect their own Central Government in next election and make a law which suits them. Why to disturb national highway and making slogan which is undemocratic. Farmers are not following Supreme court judgement and disturbing life of normal citizen of Delhi Ncr.
    If they wish peaceful long term agitation, they should do at designated place at Burari Ground..

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