Agricultural Bills


It is not new knowledge that foreign multinationals, particularly American multinationals, and their collaborators, the domestic corporate big business houses, have been trying to penetrate Indian agriculture for long. They have penetrated the markets for inputs, but has not yet been able to make much headway regarding marketing of produce. Now they have succeeded in doing so through the pliant Modi government. The new bills, by deregulating the markets for agricultural produce, have scuttled the provision for minimum support prices. Big players will now come to replace middlemen, and farmers, largely owner cultivators. Exposing farmers to the dictates of the corporate lobby and foreign multinationals through contract farming may be disastrous to the former, but the forces Modi is committed to serve will certainly gain.

Liberating farmers from the clutches of middlemen may sound very noble. But it does not imply that farmers will be able to sell their produce directly to final consumers at reasonable prices. Rather, bigger players—big retailers and wholesalers-- will enter the scene in a big way, capturing the entire network of trade and gobbling up the resource-poor intermediaries as well as exploiting the farmers. Big fish eating up small fry.

What is distressing for the Modi government, however, is the fact that farmers' organisations, which are conscious of their self-interest, are waking up to the disaster that are looming large. They are opposing the bills for good reasons. A minister of the Modi cabinet, Harshimrat Kaur Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal, a long time ally of Bharatiya Janata Party, has thought it prudent to resign in the face of farmers' protests and the uncertain position of the JPP, which is dependent on farmers' support for its existence, has put the stability of the present Haryana cabinet also in jeopardy. It is not that protests will remain confined to Punjab and Haryana, the two major wheat-growing states of the country. So, coming days are sure to witness many eruptions here and there on this issue. Calling dissenters gaddars (betrayers) and exhorting Modi loyalists to shoot them down may now backfire, because it is well-nigh impossible to communalise the issue despite the best efforts of the Modi-Shah combine.

Reactionaries lift stones to throw at their own feet. Modi's Hindutva has fairly succeeded in dividing the Indian society on communal lines and prepared the social basis of slaughter of Muslims. But now this will no longer come handy. The opium of Hindutva will not be able to blunt the edge of farmers' anger.

At the fag end of 2020 the peasant question returns with a big question mark. Modi's sell-out policy has opened space for the left for organising peasant masses in their thousands across the country, by uniting even the large farmers. In the yester years communists succeeded in making their presence felt in Indian polity by mobilising peasant masses on the slogan of 'land to the tillers'. And now a stage has arrived when small and marginal farmers, who hold small parcels of land, will be totally deprived of their holdings due to introduction of contract farming. It remains to be seen whether the left in its entirety can rise to the occasion, to challenge Modi's obnoxious agricultural bills.


Vol. 53, No. 15, Oct 11 - 17, 2020