Are there political motives behind farmers' agitation? (IANS Investigation, Part 2)

Updated December 11, 2020

social social social social Are there political motives behind farmers' agitation? (IANS Investigation, Part 2)

IANS

New Delhi, Dec 11 (IANS) The Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), which is leading the ongoing agitation, seems to have close association with the Congress as it has been tagging the Congress leadership, including Rahul Gandhi, Randeep Singh Surjewala and Jairam Ramesh, while targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter.

Sources said that the political motives and self-contradictory viewpoints are evident. The protesting farmers' unions are claiming to be politically non-aligned and fighting for the rights of the farmers, but a different reality emerges on a closer look. The BKU seems to have close association with the Congress, sources said.

Sources also said that the BKU had actively supported the Congress during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which hints towards a political alignment behind these agitations. Previously, the BKU had been critical about the issue of arhtiyas' in the mandis. They had even tagged Rahul Gandhi in its tweets on the issue. "But today they seem to be sympathetic to the cause of the arhtiyas," sources said.

Some observers have coined the nomenclature 'Unsure Political Awaragardi' (UPA) for the alliance. They say that various UPA members are supporting the farmers' agitation just for the sake of politics, and the truth remains that the UPA itself had tried to tweak the APMC act.

During the UPA tenure between 2003 and 2013, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had himself written letters to the Chief Ministers of Delhi, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh to amend their state APMC Act to facilitate private sector investments in providing alternative competitive marketing channels in the overall interest of the farmers and the consumers.

A question is also being posed to the Opposition. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Communist party members raising hue and cry that APMC system will be demolished in the states must answer why the APMC Act is altogether absent in Kerala?

Infact, Kerala's pineapple farmers are pinning greater hopes on APMC reforms which would enable them to tap into new markets and gain better price realisation for the fruit. As until now, the pineapple farmers are supposed to sell their produce only in APMC mandis outside the state.

According to Baby John, President, Pineapple Growers Association Keralam, "The changes in the APMC Act will bring in transparency in sales and find new takers for the product in new markets. Normally, a pineapple farmer has to provide 7-8 per cent as commission for selling his produce in APMC markets as per the rules. Doing away with this fee would benefit the farmers in the long run."

It has also been pointed out that the BKU has made a U-turn on its own manifesto of April 2019. The manifesto titled Farmers' Manifesto for Freedom' calls for abolishing laws such as the APMC and Essential Commodities Act.

On APMC, the manifesto said, "The Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMC), which were supposed to ensure fair price to the farmers and save them from exploitation by middlemen, have instead created legal monopoly power for select set of licenced traders who now have a stranglehold on farmers and other traders."

On Essential Commodities Act, the manifesto said, "Price control under the Essential Commodities Act have, instead of stabilising prices, contributed to frequent and wild fluctuations in prices of many farm produce. These laws have increased the risk for the farmers, making them wary of investment, increasing uncertainty for traders, disrupting supply and causing avoidable scarcity for consumers."

It also called for freedom to trade, saying, "Open and competitive markets, based on recognition and respect for property rights, facilitate freedom to trade and are prerequisites for any vibrant and growing economy. Yet, farmers are restricted in terms of where, how and at what price they can sell their produce. All these restrictions are forms of violation of their property rights."

"The government has enabled freedom to trade with the three new farm laws. It has not done away with APMCs. It has given the farmers the choice to trade. Yet, the BKU, which demanded it, is on the streets. The BKU had also asked the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to adopt the manifesto," sources said.

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