In 2008, the Punjab and Haryana farmers were upset that they were being forced to sell their wheat produce at the Minimum Selling Price (MSP). As per the report in The Tribune’s Chandigarh edition from 3rd April 2008, the Punjab and Haryana farmers led by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) protested against the central government’s move to ban corporates from procuring wheat from farmers.
Led by then MP Sharad Joshi, who was also the founder of Kisan Coordination Committee (KCC), and Bhupinder Mann of BKU, farmers expressed displeasure that while the price of wheat was approximately Rs 1,600 per quintal in international market, they were selling their produce at Rs 1,000 per quintal as per MSP.
“Why should the farmers suffer losses by selling their produce at lower rates to the government agencies. The market forces, and not politics, should be allowed to rule,” Joshi had then said.
Twelve years later, the same farmers from same states led by same farmer organisation is opposing the very law which allows them to do exactly what they demanded.
Hypocrisy, thy name BKU
The BKU has been opposing the new farm laws introduced by the central government by alleging that the new laws were not meant for the benefit of farmers. The new farm laws, inter alia, liberate the farmers from the clutches of middlemen (Arhityas) and allow them to sell the produce to the buyer of their choice outside the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committees Act) markets at fair prices.
Amusingly, in 2019, the BKU had supported the then Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, late Ram Vilas Paswan after he demanded Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to do away with Arhitya system and ensure direct payment to farmers as is provided under the new farm laws.
The farmers’ union had welcomed the demand for eliminating commission agents who burdened farmers with huge debts and the decision to introduce direct online transactions. A year later, they want the middlemen system restored.
The Kisan manifesto prepared by KCC in 2019 asked for abolishment of APMC and Essential Commodities Act. However, when the current farm laws made provisions ending the monopoly of APMCs, offering farmers the freedom to sell their produce anywhere, the BKU has done a backflip.
Punjab farmers protest
Punjab farmers are protesting against the new farm laws which lets them sell their produce to whoever they wish. They have been demanding that the government should not get rid of the MSP. However, the government has time and again assured that the MSP and mandi system will stay as is.
The three bills carrying Prime Minister Modi’s vision of ‘One India One Agriculture Market’ aim to empower farmer by providing a farmer-friendly mechanism. The ongoing protests being held in the name of farmers are being used by anti-national elements like pro-Khalistani voices and separatist groups to create mayhem.