UPSC SOCIO SYLLABUS
PAPER 2 – CHAPTER 5 – SOCIAL MOVEMENTS IN MODERN INDIA: NEW FARMERS’ MOVEMENTS
- Emerging in 1970s and gaining farther momentum in 1980s, the farmers’ movement in India has exposed some newer contradictions of Indian agrarian society.
- Unlike the earlier mobilizations of the small and marginal peasants along with the landless agricultural labourers against the zamindars and landlords, the farmers’ movement, concerned mostly with the demands of the upper stratum of the rural society, poses certain interesting questions about the relatively long tradition of mobilization of the peasantry.
- This was the decade when farmers of green revolution area began to rally around political
parties and leaders.
- One such leader who organised the farmers under political party was Chaudhury Charan Singh, the former Prime Minister of India. He organised few rallies raising such issues as parity in prices between industrial and agricultural commodities; allowing import of agricultural input from abroad, reducing the protection given to industry, due representation of farmers in different boards and committees, subsidies to electricity, water fertilizer, seeds, reducing the income disparity between the urban and rural people, establishing Kisan Banks as well as agricultural polytechnics etc.
- During the same decade, farmers in Punjab organised struggles under Khetkari Zamindari Union.
- Narayana Swamy Naidu of Tamil Nadu who, during the same decade of 1970s, organised farmers in Tamil Nadu under the banner of Tamiliga Vyavasaigal Sangam.
- In Uttar Pradesh, the movement started much late in 1986. It was spearheaded by Mahendra Singh Tikat a peasant by profession.
- Early Peasant Movements in Colonial period was for the redressal of immediate grievances like high and exploitation by zamindars.
- Towards 1920s, peasant movements became more organised and became a part of nationalist movement.
- The Post-independent India saw broadly two kinds of peasant or farmers’ struggles in the recent past. Peasant movements led by Marxist and Socialists- such as Telangana Movement (1946-51), Tebagha movement (1946-1949), Kagodu Satyagraha (1951), Naxalbari Movement (1967) and Lalgarh movement (2009). Farmers’ movement led by rich farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat.
- The beginning of the New Farmers’ Movement in general is seen from the decade of 1980s.
- This was the decade when farmers of green revolution area began to rally around political parties and leaders.
- The reasons were: terms of trade going against the agriculture, declining purchasing power, un-remunerative prices, agriculture becoming losing proposition, increase in input prices, declining per capita income from agriculture etc.
- It all began in Maharashtra when Shetkari Sanghathana under Sharad Joshi, a former employee of UN turned farmer, began agitating in village called Chakan in Pune for remunerative prices for agricultural commodities, particularly for onion.
MAIN DEMANDS OF NEO FARMERS’ MOVEMENTS
- Lower prices on inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides.
- Lower tariffs on electricity and water.
- Abolition of land revenue and imposition of tax based on output alone.
- Waiving of loans owed by farmers to the government, banks and cooperative societies, which are the offshoots of the unjustified levy system and low prices imposed by the government.
- Reduction of rate of interest on fresh loans.
- Introduction of crop insurance.
ANALYSIS OF NEO FARMER’S MOVEMENTS
- Movement had a pan-India scope.
- The strategies of the farmers’ movement in different states have exhibited close resemblance with the civil disobedience movement.
- It emerged when terms of trade were going against agriculture, income from agriculture was dwindling, input prices were going beyond the reach of farmers etc.
- Careful consideration of the issues, concerns, values and modes of action of the farmers’ movement
often has led many scholars to characterize it as a new social movement.
- It has helped the farmers to be a part of international movement against such issues as globalisation, imperialism and capitalism.
- They did not carry any radical agenda from within- for example they never bothered to demand radical land reforms, nor were they concerned about the atrocities perpetrated on marginal classes including the Dalits in the country side.
- It is often argued that the New Farmers’ movement is highly biased towards market-oriented farmers than those who are living in the subsistence economy.
- For example, their argument in favour of writing off loans, remunerative prices, declaring agriculture as an industry, abolition of tractor loans etc ultimately helped the big or the
rich/middle peasantry or the farmers.
- There are criticisms that movements never become the movements of or for all caste groups. In Karnataka, the Raitha Sangha largely became the movement of two dominant castes- the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. In Maharashtra, it did become a movement of Maratha Kunbis.
THE 2020-21 INDIAN FARMERS’ PROTESTS
Farmers in many states are protesting against three recent bills passed by the Parliament. The controversy revolves around:
- ‘Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020′
- Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020′ and
- Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020.
- The farmer unions believe that the laws will open the sale and marketing of agricultural products outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers.
- Further, the laws will allow inter-state trade and encourage hike electronic trading of agricultural produce.
- The new laws prevent the state governments from collecting a market fee, cess, or levy for trade outside the APMC markets; this has led the farmers to believe the laws will “gradually lead to the deterioration and ultimately end the mandi system” thus “leaving farmers at the mercy of corporates”.
- Further, the farmers believe that the laws will end their existing relationship with agricultural small-scale businessmen (commission agents who act as middlemen by providing financial loans, ensuring timely procurement, and promising adequate prices for their crop).
- Additionally, protesting farmers believe dismantling the APMC mandis will encourage abolishing the purchase of their crops at the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Farmers’ movement, whether, new or not, certainly is a desperate attempt on the part of the farmers, especially those at the middle and upper rung having considerable dependence on the market and its vagaries, to safeguard them and for that matter, agriculture and food security of the nation. Such desperations are also perceived in the quick transformation of class based agrarian movement to communal, ethnic or regional movements. The future of farmer’s movement in India depends largely on the possibility of forming wider network of different stakeholders against both the state and global market forces.