Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Farmers’ Movement

For more than a month now lakhs of farmers are on the roads near Delhi for the repeal of the three laws recently passed pertaining to agricultural production, storage and exchange and for a law bound assurance of Minimum Support Price (MSP). They have braved the cold and more than 35 have already laid their lives for the cause. Many dialogues have taken place during this period between the government at the center and the leaders of the Farmers' Movement. But the situation is as it was on day one. The farmers say that they will go back home only after the repeal of the laws and the government says that the laws shall not be repealed.  

I have tried to articulate the Vidya Ashram view on the Facebook through some posts in Hindi. Given below is the English version of those three posts.    


Farmers’ Movement today : Heralding a New Future

(Sunil Sahasrabudhey, facebook post, 18 Dec. 2020)                

The farmers’ movements time and again underline the real situation of the world and suggest a way out. This situation is that of conflict between human essence and capital, conflict between a life worth living and the arithmetic of the market, conflict of a parity between duty and right with the contractors in different walks of life. The present farmers’ movement situated around Delhi does not wish to be entangled in the commentaries and analyses by the very highly educated. We extend unqualified support to this farmers’ movement and wish to say that when people in such large numbers are saying something and braving the sufferings entirely peacefully, then what is the dispute about? One should accept what they are saying and then may discuss the remaining questions. It is also not fair  to put such a dialogue as a condition for such acceptance. When one is talking about food/grains, one should not bring the market in.

Today’s market is controlled by big capital. When food/grain is connected with this market the main sufferers are the producers and those for whom food is a large part of their budget. If the market is kept out, then what is the alternative?

The International Farmers’ Movement known by the name of Via-Campesina has proposed a way out, which is constructed around the idea of ‘Food Sovereignty’. Sovereignty includes a just balance and coordination between duties and rights. It may be reasonable to think that it is a duty of the farmers to fulfill the food needs of their area. However the condition necessary for this requires that the governments do their part. When the governments do not do their part, then the human network around food/grains breaks down and the market enters forcibly. 

The three laws made by the Central Government recently take the country in this direction of bringing in the market forcefully in the arena of agriculture. The relationship between food and humans becomes less important and new opportunities come into existence for expanding the role of capital and market in the agricultural sector. It is necessary that the government take back these laws  and then there be a dialogue which is not around capital, market and profit and the so called development but around the questions of human life being livable and non-acceptability of the situation where grain is there but no food.

We may expect far reaching results if agriculture is made entirely a subject of state governments with a rider that they create conditions favorable for the farmers to assume the responsibility of feeding the people of their region. It is a farmers’ country, it is a farmers’ world, and if not, it ought to be so. Villages need to come alive across the globe. In this lies the future of humanity.  

Dialogue in Vidya Ashram, Sarnath  

          (Sunil Sahasrabudhey, facebookpost, 21 Dec. 2020)             

On Sunday 20th Dec. 2020 homage was paid to the martyrs of the farmers’ movement. Some of us came together at 12 and stood up for a two minute silence. The number of martyrs is increasing by the day and it was felt that such sacrifice cannot go in vain.  A discussion followed on the nature and extent of the contribution being made by this farmers’ movement to the future of India.

Those who came together to build this Vidya Ashram have been active in the Farmers’ Movement since the late 1970s. Different persons played active roles in different states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. We published a magazine called Mazdoor Kisan Neeti in Hindi to take the message of the Farmers’ Movement to the middle classes, mainly to those with social concerns. The magazine played an important role of coordination in that Farmers’ Movement of national spread. We had found that the Farmers’ Movement drew its inspirations from Swadeshi Darshan. Wide spread discussions took place, then, on the role of the farmer in society and what conditions needed to be created towards that end. It is in this milieu that the idea of lokavidya germinated and took shape which took the message of the Farmers’ Movement to the world of knowledge and at a philosophical level.

The Farmers’ Movement earlier and the present one too, demand a political solution.

The discussion at the Vidya Ashram focused on the fact that in the modern world farming has always been a deficit operation. And that this is kept so by the Central Government for the value transfer required for capital accumulation. Farming is already a deficit operation and these new laws will increase the deficit 2-3 folds in addition to promoting corporate intervention in agriculture.

1.      Therefore it is necessary for the life of the farmers that these laws are taken back. Further a national dialogue needs to be initiated for building policies and structures that would liberate farming from being a deficit operation. This means a new relationship between industry and agriculture, a friendly relationship which will grant an equal economic and social status to agriculture, equal to that of industry.

2.      This requires that ----

·        The knowledge of the farming community be given a status equal to university knowledge.

·        Also that agriculture must be made completely a subject of the States and the Center provide the financial wherewithal to the States, for them to fulfill this responsibility. Then laws like the present one will not be enacted. And if they are enacted, then if a million farmers encircle the state capital, no state government would dare do what the Central Government is doing today.

·        It is a matter of political imagination. Governance must be at the state level. And the Center work as the coordinating agency. In place of centralized systems, those units and systems of governance must be given priority, which are close to the people. 

The King and the Farmer

(Sunil Sahasrabudhey, facebookpost, 25 Dec. 2020)

It is often said that king and his supporters do not know that they do not know. They think that they know.

And those who live ordinary lives, those who daily face the reality of life, those who do not live with arrogance under the toxicity of power or knowledge, they often do not know that they know. And even if they know that they know, they do not have such recognition in the public realm.

The solution of this paradoxical situation demands a radical political intervention. This is perhaps the first step in today’s situation towards social reform or social transformation.

The government is saying that the farmers do not understand the implication of the newly enacted three farm laws covering production, storage and exchange. The farmers are saying that these laws will lead to their oppression and a multi-fold increase in the losses they incur in the farming activity which is already a deficit operation. In an age when Institutes of Agricultural Sciences organize training programs to teach farmers how to do agriculture, there ought to be no surprise if the rulers and their supporters say that the farmers do not understand.

 In the latter half of the 19th century the British Raj commissioned a detailed study and survey of Indian agriculture, for they wanted to reform and improve agriculture such that it yielded greater revenue and also developed as a market for the new chemical inputs of agriculture for whose production new industry had already come up in England in the wake of the chemical transformation of agriculture. This survey concluded that the Indian farmer had detailed knowledge of every aspect of agriculture – soil, fertility, the environment /nature, seeds, organization of production and uses of the produce etc., that he did his job with greatest of efficiency, and that there was no scope for suggestions from outside for improvement of agriculture here. And further that improvement could be expected by sharing of knowledge and dialogue between farmers of different regions.

Those who know him/her - the farmer household - have always subscribed to the view that the Indian farmers have great knowledge of his karma (activity) and the organization of life as such. The leaders of farmers’ movement have said this for decades since the beginning of the movement that if the government ensures a just price for their produce, the farmers can show levels of production that would not be achievable by any external intervention. From whichever angel you approach ---  national need, needs of the poor, regional needs or the needs of the environment, the farmer has the detailed knowledge of the desired agriculture.

It is not the government's job to intervene in agriculture, the government ought to create those conditions which the farmers ask for.



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