The Politics of Farm Laws
Updated: Mar 18
By Ria Vijh
The three laws namely the ‘Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020’, ‘Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020’ and ‘Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020’ which were passed in September 2020 after our president approved the same, have given rise to the biggest protest India has ever seen ("President Ram Nath Kovind gives assent to three farm bills", 2021). The large number of farmers, sitting on the borders in the Delhi cold, has forced the BJP government to hold meetings with the farmer’s union, hoping to come to a solution (timeline of which has been given below) (Jagannath, 2021).
The way the BJP government unconstitutionally passed the bills in parliament, and without consulting the farmer’s union before doing so, angered the farmers (Sharma, 2021). Moreover, it not only ruins India’s reputation, being the largest democracy of the world, it is a dangerous precedent to set where the government in a bid to reform the agricultural sector took advantage of the pandemic and misused the power of ordinances. (Please refer to Prof. Shohini’s blog to read about this in detail.)
In times like these, people like us have no option but to rely on newspapers, news channels, or social media for information regarding the protest which has proven to be unreliable and untrustworthy. Often, it leads to the spread of misinformation and baseless rumours, some of which I am going to talk about in this article.
The former leader of the Indian National Congress (Congress), Rahul Gandhi recently said in a rally that if all the farmers understood the farm laws, the country would be on fire and has appealed to the BJP government to take back the laws (Rajeev, 2021). Many other members of the Congress party have also been seen boycotting the laws and joining the protests with the farmers but what is shocking is that the Congress manifesto in 2019 had also talked about amending the APMC law such that all the trade restrictions on farmers will be removed (Khan, 2021).
The ruling BJP government was seen calling the Congress hypocrites, but they are also not far behind. A report made by our Prime Minister, Narender Modi, not only talked about removing the local restrictions but also the international restrictions which have been imposed on the farmers over the years when Congress was in power. They amended the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 such that trade restrictions could be imposed only in extreme situations. But, in September 2020 they imposed a ban on export of onions as the prices were rising to please the consumers (The Print, 2021). Not only Congress, but BJP’s ally, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also protested by quitting the cabinet and calling the bills ‘anti-farmer’ (Correspondent, 2021).
Not only is Congress supporting the farmers, the rumours that they have led the farmers to start protesting had also become popular, but it raised an important question about 3 lakh farmers, which include elderly and children, sitting in the cold at Delhi borders for over 2 months merely because they had been influenced by Congress. Moreover, the farmer’s union gave a 39-point presentation to the Government explaining their concerns, complaints, suggestions and demands (D'Souza, 2021).
The BJP government, through the Attorney General, accused the farmer’s protest of having Khalistani involvement, but is there any proof for the same? The only evidence of this is a single protestor mentioning the assassination of President Indira Gandhi, to allegedly threaten Mr. Narender Modi. Some photos also started trending on social media channels of protestors carrying pro-Khalistani banners, but the photos turned out to be unrelated to the current farmer’s protest (Kundu, 2021). Some ministers of the BJP government also went on to claim the involvement of the ‘tukde-tukde’ gang (Pandey, 2020).
There are also a lot of rumours as to why only the farmers of Punjab and Haryana are protesting. Punjab and Haryana farmers constitute a major part of the protestors as they mainly grow wheat and rice, which are the top crops procured by the Government through the APMC mandis at Minimum Selling Price (MSP). The farmers of Punjab and Haryana fear that once the new laws come into place, they will not get the MSP for their crops. Hence, the protests started out with the farmers wanting written confirmation of the continuation of the procurement system at MSP and has since grown into farmers demanding a complete withdrawal of the laws.
While what changes the issue of reform of the farm laws will bring is something to ponder over, what is important is to not fall prey to the lies and hypocrisy of the media channels or the political parties. It is essential that common people like us have the correct unbiased information to make up their own opinion about what the fate of the farm bills should be.
Ria Vijh is a final year student of B.Com(Hons.) at JSBF and is also the Editorial Board member at JSBF REPORT.
Correspondent, H. (2021). Harsimrat Kaur Badal quits Cabinet over farm bills. Retrieved 1 February 2021, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/badal-quits-cabinet-over-farm-bills/story-doN5dPg1TwiUchcswdZJ8I.html
D'Souza, F. (2021). Farmers Protest Explained [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVa-fzdqC6g&t=554s
Jagannath, J. (2021). President Kovind gives his assent for 3 farm bills passed by Parliament. Retrieved 1 February 2021, from https://www.livemint.com/news/india/president-kovind-gives-his-assent-for-three-farm-bills-passed-by-parliament-11601210482225.html
Khan, F. (2021). How Congress is justifying its stance against farm bills after backing reforms last year. Retrieved 3 February 2021, from https://theprint.in/politics/how-congress-is-justifying-its-stance-against-farm-bills-after-backing-reforms-last-year/505618/
Kundu, C. (2021). Fact Check: Old images of pro-Khalistan demonstrations linked to farmers’ protests. Retrieved 1 February 2021, from https://www.indiatoday.in/fact-check/story/fact-check-old-images-of-pro-khalistan-demonstrations-linked-to-farmers-protests-1750221-2020-12-16
Pandey, N. (2020). After 'Khalistan agenda', BJP leaders now see hand of ‘tukde-tukde gang’ in farmer protest. Retrieved 3 February 2021, from https://theprint.in/politics/after-khalistan-agenda-bjp-leaders-now-see-hand-of-tukde-tukde-gang-in-farmer-protest/556673/
President Ram Nath Kovind gives assent to three farm bills. (2021). Retrieved 3 February 2021, from https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/president-ram-nath-kovind-gives-assent-to-three-farm-bills/article32708467.ece
Rajeev, K. (2021). If all farmers understood the details of farm laws, country would be on fire, says Rahul Gandhi | India News - Times of India. Retrieved 3 February 2021, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/if-all-farmers-understood-the-details-of-farm-laws-country-would-be-on-fire-says-rahul-gandhi/articleshow/80512533.cms
The Print. (2021). What Modi Govt’s 3 Agriculture reform bills mean, political controversy & hypocrisy around these [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UFQa4Mgsgc