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From BKU to Punjab CM Capt Amarinder: More hypocrisy on the farm bills

Here is a great thumb rule. If you find any person or organization protesting against the new farm laws, spend a couple of minutes on google, looking up their past views on the APMC system.

Look who supports the supposedly “controversial” farm ordinances of Modi government. This is from Jun 4, 2020:

“देश के 14 करोड़ किसानों को एक देश एक मंडी का तोहफा देते हुए सरकार ने किसानों को अपनी उपज कहीं भी बेचने की अनुमति दे दी है। कैबिनेट ने अध्यादेश के जरिए इसे मंजूरी दी है। भाकियू के राष्ट्रीय प्रवक्ता राकेश टिकैत ने सरकार के इस कदम का स्वागत किया है और कहा कि यह भाकियू की वर्षो पुरानी मांग थी।”

(Translation: Union Cabinet has sanctioned an ordinance giving 14 crore Indian farmers the gift of one nation, one market. Rakesh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union has welcomed this move of the government and said that the BKU had been demanding this for many years).

If you are rubbing your eyes in disbelief, you are not alone. This is the same Rakesh Tikait who has been leading a “movement” against these laws on our TV screens. This is the same Rakesh Tikait who recently met Cabinet ministers, including Amit Shah, with his demand to repeal these exact same laws. So how seriously can you take this “movement”?

A few days ago, I had written an article with the somewhat arrogant title of “All the hypocrisy over the Farm Bills 2020 – in one place.” You can check it out here. There is no way one single person, in one article, can collect all the hypocrisy that we have seen in this matter. This article is Part 2 in my efforts. I am guessing that many many more such articles shall be required.

Coming back to the case of Bharatiya Kisan Union, they had welcomed the law for good reason. For one, they had included these demands prominently in their “Kisan manifesto” for the 2019 elections.

Bharatiya Kisan Union on farm laws

Indeed, the documentary trail of evidence for this demand goes back decades. Let me quote a report from The Tribune in April 2008:

Farmers from Punjab and Haryana today staged a demonstration in the city in protest against the decision of the Centre to ban corporates from procuring wheat from their statesLed by Sharad Joshi, MP, and Bhupinder Mann, a BKU leader from Haryana, the farmers rued that though the price of wheat had shot up to Rs 1,600 per quintal in the international market, the government was forcing them to sell their produce at the minimum support price of Rs 1,000 per quintal.

The same BKU, back in 2008, demanding the right to sell to corporates! But it’s not just 2008. We can literally go back decades and find the same demand. Indeed, a 1996 scholarly paper by Bentall and Corbridge (Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (published by the Royal Geographical Society), Vol. 21, No. 1 (1996), pp. 27-48) traces the history of the BKU and lists among its key demands:

the abolition of restrictions on the interstate movement of farm produce

BKU demand

Indeed, this was the key demand behind the large scale protests by BKU’s Mahendra Singh Tikait in the 1980s and 1990s. The self-appointed farmer leaders and the media has been reminding the public about these protests. Conveniently enough, they have not told us what those protests were actually about.

So much for the BKU. We already know that the Congress party promised these same farm reforms in their 2019 election manifesto. But, there is more.

Capt Amarinder’s hypocrisy

That’s Captain Amarinder Singh, pleading with Punjab farmers, presumably with folded hands, to do themselves a favor. Explaining how the farmers could have tripled their incomes if only they had a chance to deal with Reliance. But alas, the Akalis rained on their parade.

This was before Punjab elections. Why won’t Captain Amarinder Singh do what is needed now?

It isn’t just the BKU or the Congress. Take this tweet from former Chief Economic Adviser Kaushik Basu.

Kaushik Basu’s tweet on farm laws

Thank you professor, for studying the farm bills and then putting out your conclusion in less than 280 characters. Your intellectual contribution has received over 15,000 retweets.

There is still the tiny matter though of whether this is consistent with the views of the panel on inflation that Kaushik Basu chaired during the UPA regime:

The recommendations have been sent to the prime minister and the finance minister, said Basu. According to him, APMC reform would allow free movement of grains across the country and FDI in retail would speed up large-scale and efficient movement of food grains from the farmers to consumers, and these two measures would considerably reduce food inflation.

Okay, people can change. But does this mean the Basu led panel made those recommendations without studying the matter carefully? Did Kaushik Basu make a mistake or was he incompetent? If he personally disagreed with the recommendations of the panel, did he place his dissenting opinion in writing?

I am not a farmer. I am not an expert nor an economist. But I subscribe to basic notions of logic. Why would folks who welcomed a law back in June be opposing it on the streets now? Why would they contradict themselves without giving a reason?

You and I are entitled to ask these questions, whether or not we know anything about the agricultural economy. In any case, everyone is at least as much of a “farmer leader” as Yogendra Yadav.

Here is a great thumb rule. If you find any person or organization protesting against the new farm laws, spend a couple of minutes on google, looking up their past views on the APMC system. Chances are, they are contradicting themselves. The hypocrisy isn’t surprising. The surprising part is that in this particular case, they have left a really long trail of evidence exposing themselves. The evidence is hiding in plain sight. You just have to open your eyes.

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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