A year since it began, the farmers’ protest in Punjab has now acquired a bigger space. Interestingly, it’s going to be for the primary time that the government is supporting the farmers’ movement against the Central government. Not only this, the movement is being supported by all political parties within the state, except the BJP — Congress, Akalis, AAP. it’s enormous support among retired and even serving civil servants, teachers, students, civil society activists, artists and professionals. In other words, the category which has ruled this state since the mid-’60s within the post-Green Revolution phase has joined this protest.
It is a well-entrenched class, having at its disposal an abundance of human and material resources and may thus provide sustainability to the present movement. Even the songs have exhorted the people to hitch the protest using the nostalgic theme — once a farmer, always a farmer — addressing those that left farming and are now engaged in non-agriculture activities. and therefore the slogan — no farmer, no food.
The three Acts gone by Parliament reinforce the apprehensions of this class that their control over the agricultural economy is being weakened whilst they might not graduate to industry, trade or the service sector. For the hegemonic agrarian upper class in Punjab, land isn’t merely an economic asset, but has social and cultural value. the present protest movement is different from earlier agrarian protests in terms of the economic demands, politico-cultural stakes and identity overtones. Most of the protests within the ’80s revolved largely round the enhancement of support prices, institutionalised system , regular supply of inputs on subsidised rates, etc. Those protests wont to threaten to prevent the availability of foodgrain to other states. Whereas now the crisis is privatisation of agricultural operations and of foodgrain not finding a market. This protest is for survival. one more reason for its longevity is that the forthcoming election in early 2022 in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh . This explains the desperation of political parties, aside from the BJP, to support this agitation. In Punjab, it’s provided a chance to the ruling Congress to beat anti-incumbency. Knowing well that the state assembly has no powers to nullify the central Acts and introduce their own Acts to manage agriculture trade, the Amarinder Singh government did exactly that.
Similarly, the AAP government in Delhi notified the central legislation, whilst its Punjab unit supported the farmers’ agitation. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), an erstwhile ally of the BJP, after initial hiccups, also came to support this agitation. and therefore the BJP, nurturing an ambition to repeat Haryana in Punjab, found itself on the margins — because the pilot of Acts which not only have adverse implications for farmers but have also hit its support base amongst small traders, arhtiyas and little shopkeepers.
The lesson to be drawn by political parties is that blanket support to the economic reforms agenda shaped by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and being implemented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is fraught with danger — it directly affects the survival of the people living on the margins.
The first round of talks with farmers was persisted December 3, 2020. within the sixth round, the Centre agreed to exempt farmers from the stubble burning penalty and dropped changes notified within the Electricity Amendment Bill, 2020. As a follow-up, the govt offered to amend provisions associated with the fee structure notified within the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), and promised stricter provisions to safeguard farmers’ land rights, strengthening of notified markets and a guarantee on minimum support prices (MSPs). These proposals were rejected by a majority vote by 35 farm organisations. On January 12, the Supreme Court stayed for 2 years the implementation of the farm laws, besides constituting a committee to succeed in fair and equitable solutions.
The leaders of the movement registered the very fact that it had been politics which had primacy, not legal recourse. The Supreme Court features a role, but it cannot reverse the anti-people implications of the processes of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.