Recently (as usual) there was some drama over the passing of three agriculture focussed bills. The bills were passed easily through the Lok Sabha but when it came to Rajya Sabha we were witness to some legendary scenes of members of the opposition throwing rule books at the deputy chairman of the house, MP’s being thrown out of the house using house marshals, etc. So what are the bills which led to the drama? Let us see.
Bill number one was The Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Bill 2020., bill number two: The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill 2020. And bill number 3: Essential Commodities(Amendment) Act 2020. So what do these bills are about? These bills seek to abolish the role of the state-run Agricultural Produce Market Committee(APMC), reducing the role of middle-men who would buy at low prices from the APMC run markets and enable direct entry of corporates to secure sales of crops.
So prima-facie it sounds like a win-win for farmers but why are the farmers in Haryana and Punjab protesting so much? It has to do with the fact that Punjab and Haryana are the major farmers of Rice and wheat. While wheat is the staple of much of north India while the rice consumption historically has been lower. So if the sale is made in an open market, the big farmers of Punjab and Haryana growing paddy are worried that they might take huge losses due to lower demand. Other states are kind of supporting the bill as they feel corporate involvement will lead to better storage, fairer price discovery, and as a result, increased incomes for the farmers. The govt’s role would be only to regulate the market instead of directly involved in buying unsold inventory. And any which ways only 22 crops are listed by govt for Minimum Support Price(MSP) and on top of the list would be paddy and wheat.
Frankly speaking, I have little knowledge when it comes to the farming sector in India but it does sound like a reform towards a system in Europe and the USA but the govt. Needs to have enough checks and balances to ensure that like in Europe and The USA there are huge farm subsidies by the govt. Due to a fall in farmer incomes. And this is where my objection to the bills come. The Govt. refused to have any sort of discussion on the bills in the Parliament. I would have personbally liked a debate in the parliament where we could have gleamed the actual objections, pitfalls of the bill vs the advantages of the reforms but alas this govt. chose to bulldoze its way through the p[arliament.
So secondary charge sheets were filed in the Delhi riots case. And to people’s surprise that the Delhi Police is hell-bent on linking all anti-CAA protests to the communal riots that left North Delhi scarred. So many prominent anti-CAA protestors like Yogendra Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, Jayati Ghosh, Apoorvanand, and Umar Kahlid, and Umar Khalid has already been arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act(UAPA). The funny part is a few days back a doctor from UP Dr. Kafeel AHmed who was arrested under the same act was released upon orders by the Allahabad high court and the charges under the act set aside.
Why have the people mentioned above have been named? Well, they gave speeches that exhorted the protesters to go to ‘any extent possible’ to stand against the law. The police in their hamhanded manner forgot nowhere the speeches attributed to the accused mentioned violent protests. They evoked Mahatma Gandhi, his principles, and national integration repeatedly. It is not surprising that 2 of the names in the list are professors, so if the govt. Can target the intellectuals it can scare the others into meek submission. And this is not even to do with the fact that BJP is the only party doing this.
In Maharastra, the Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut has become suddenly the beacon of hope against nepotism and drug abuse prevalent in the industry. She said many things which make no sense but the ruling Shiv-Sena govt which is in alliance with Congress decided to respond first a minister abusing her and then the local municipal authorities moving onto her house to demolish ‘illegal’ constructions. Giving a 24-hour notice to a person and then initiating action against a person who has opposing views isn’t a sign of law enforcement but rather a dictatorship. This just goes onto show doesn’t matter who is in power, they love to use power to put down opposition.
Back to the Delhi riots and there were many prominent personalities who have voiced concern against the CAA law passed in December but if those speeches imply that a stringent anti-terror law like UAPA can be used to harass law-abiding citizens then it would put serious doubt in minds of dissenters. Many of us don’t have a safety net so if we choose to dissent against the govt, let it be policy or law we have to be scared that we might be branded terrorists and our careers ruined forever by an endless cycle of courts and becoming untouchable in the job market. This sets a dangerous precedent and reminds us of the emergency imposed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, then the PM of India who incidentally jailed many of the leaders from the current ruling party including the PM. Hence it is more perplexing that the same leaders who have already bore the brunt of Govt. power choose to follow a similar path to cling onto power.