Respect these providers!
We live because we eat. We eat because they produce. And they produce because they have no other option or means of earning a living. A part of what they produce has to be sold by them. They have no other way out. They are the people whom destiny has ordained to stay tied to the soil inherited from generation to generation. There are 125 million land holdings smaller than 1 hectare in India according to the 2015-16 agricultural census. These marginal landholders constitute 86% of total landholdings numbering nearly 146 million. They must cultivate the land, keep a small part of it for personal use, and volunteer to sell what they can spare in order that they may have some small cash for their survival!
Today the farmers from Punjab and Haryana find themselves badly hit by the new agricultural laws of the union government enacted this year. This is because in Punjab and Haryana 75% of the produce is acquired by the central agencies at the minimum support price in the APMCs which shall now face tough competition from private players and by and by the government also might withdraw its hand from retail procurement from the producers.
Nearly 45% of the total rice and wheat procurement last year was made from Punjab and Haryana .There is a valid reason for the small farmers fearing loss of a chance of getting a guaranteed price under the MSP.
As we have already noticed, 86% of the farmers own less than 1 hectare of land. They are poor folk who face the heat of the new regime. If the allegation against the current agitation at the Delhi borders is that it is being propelled by vested interests or big land holders, then the figures of the census reveal that only 83 million out of the total 146 million land holdings in India are of the size above four hectares. That makes it just 57 percent of all holdings.
If the poor people contributing 45% to the Central Food grain kitty insist that the APMC must continue and the MSP must be ensured under all circumstances whether the grain is sold to the government agencies or the private players, then there is reason to understand that their very existence is at stake. The government owes it to them to protect their interests. Or else, they will languish and finally dwindle and perish. The faith and hope of nearly 60% of the population is facing a challenge of wilting under the burden of the new laws which take away the MSP and the facility of the APMC.
They are men of pith and thew. They are the pillars on which national health hinges. They are not to be looked upon as louts fit only to be laughed at and fooled with a meager price for their labour. Every state doesn’t contribute in the same measure to the Central Food grain Kitty.
If two States of Punjab and Haryana contribute 45% and Madhya Pradesh contributes nearly 10% then the remaining 26 States contribute only the remaining 45 percent. It means that the farmers of Punjab and Haryana are not agitating for no reason. Their point of view must be understood, appreciated and honoured.
However it does not mean that the farmers in other states can be overlooked .They produce many other items that enter our kitchens. If at all, the union government is convinced that its vision is in the interest of the nation, it can announce the deferment of the implementation of the new laws for 6 months or 1 year and meanwhile prepare an atmosphere of understanding and mutual trust so that the farmers may comprehend the benign intent of the government.
Beliefs cannot be forced. Goodwill is always to be earned. Faith is a byproduct of participatory deliberations. The hot and indecent haste with which the laws were brought in doesn’t behove a democratically governed system where people’s wish is the only thing that matters!
Let understanding prevail and let these valuable providers be respected!
(The author is a Retired Principal, Govt. College, Hoshiarpur Punjab. He is a regular contributor to Kashmir Vision) )