Farmers taken for a ride, say their leaders

Two administrative reforms pushed by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday as part of the booster dose for farmers would rather cripple them than any kind of help and benefit only those with deep pockets to take advantage.

As a Bharat Kisan Union (BKU) leader pointed out the government wants one to run with the legs tied which is impossible. He pointed out that the smaller farmer has no means to rush his produce to the places that fetch him the best prices since after Sitharaman announced to remove the inter-state ban on movement of the farm produces.

The farmer's hands are being tied further under another scheme proposed by the finance minister to make those in private trade guarantee an assured return to the farmer even before he starts sowing. Instead of helping the farmer, this scheme will rather tie him down as he cannot sell his produce to anybody else even if getting the higher price.

As the farmers' leaders point out, no use of removal of the inter-state ban since the farmer can't take his produce to distant place fetching him better price since he remains committed to sell only to the persons who gave the guarantee of the so-called assured price before sowing.

Both the schemes were in the pipeline since the Modi government came to power in 2014 but they could not be implemented because of the problems cited by the bureaucracy in the implementation. Ignoring all these objections, the finance minister has pushed them without understanding the implications.

A farmer does not have means to engage a truck to transport his produce to a far away place where he gets the best price. In fact, businessmen who will get the produces at the price committed by the farmer at the time of sowing will be able to make money as they can afford to engage trucks for the transportation.

There is a business class known as "adatiyas" who buy from the farmers at one place and rush the produce to another place to sell at higher price and earn from the difference as their commission. The government is trying to remove them by making the farmers play their role which they cannot as they neither have money nor enough stock for selling at profit.

An "adatiya" in the business points out that the wheat never used to be sold above Rs 100 a quintal and even then the farmers used to earn until the Indira Gandhi government nationalise the wheat trade and tried to do business itself. He said it only resulted in the wheat prices going up and up and still the farmers not gaining as then government had visualised.

As late farmer leader Sharad Joshi used to stress, the farmers should be given the freedom to decide all matters concerning agriculture instead of some Babus sitting in Delhi devising all kinds of policies that strangulate the farmer in various ways. The government, however, wants to meddle to let everyone think it will benefit the farmers.

The farmer leaders point out that an assured return to the farmer even before he sows looks good, but it will actually benefit only the big players in the business with money who can buy away the produce even before it is grown and sell it at own price. They wonder why the government wants to tie up hands of the farmers in this manner. Or, is it aiming at corporatisation of agriculture in which the farmers will be reduced to be just labourers toiling for the big businesses, they ask.

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