At the Delhi-Ghaziabad border, as the protesting farmers braved rain and bitter cold on Saturday, activist Medha Patkar and BKU leader Rakesh Tikait shared the make-shift stage on the Delhi-Meerut flyover to address them.
Speaking to The Hindu, Ms. Patkar said the basic paradigm behind the three acts was “corporatisation of agriculture.”
“They will create new landlords. The laws give concessions to the agents of corporates,” the veteran of the Narmada Bachao Andolan said.
Corporates as agents
On the presence of agents in the existing system, Ms Patkar said the present system has its checks and balances but the new laws would introduce the agents of big corporates as official agents.
Referring to the recent battle between Pepsico and Gujarat’s potato farmers, Ms. Patkar said, “The freedom to stock and hoard will mean farmers would not get their due price. They will be forced to move from food crops to cash crops. So, the new laws will not affect food procurement but also food production. The mechanisation of agriculture would affect the employment of farm labourers.”
Lauding the unity of purpose among the farmers across States, Ms. Patkar said different farmer groups have come together for the bigger cause.
“There may be differences on some issues but when it comes to the common minimum programme, we are all united. The government and a section of media are trying to divide by invoking China, Pakistan, and Khalistan but they will not succeed,” she said.
She said the government had reservations about talking to some groups, adding, “They might not be present during the meeting with the ministers but they are very much part of the alliance.”
On what might be playing on the government’s mind, Ms Patkar said they were testing the farmers. “But now farmers are testing the government,” said the co-founder of the National Alliance of People’s Movements.
Uniting labourer, owner
The activist said the protest had brought those fighting for the right of farm labour on the same page as the owner-cultivator.
“This is how the movements take shape. They (owner-cultivator) are not as big as Ambanis and Adanis. In our calculation of Minimum Support Price, everybody’s share has been taken into account but the government doesn’t want to bring the MSP into the legal framework,” she said.
Describing the protests as peaceful, Mr .Tikait, however, underlined that it is important for farmers to wield both jhanda and danda (flag and stick).
“We don’t want to make it complicated. In 1966, when the MSP regime was introduced, a farmer could buy 10 grams of gold after selling three quintals of wheat. Make it possible and we will go back home,” he said.
The supporters are coming to terms with the ideologies of different groups. “For the bigger cause, we are protesting under one flag,” said Meghraj Solanki of the Bulandshahr unit of the All India Kisan Sabha. “At the Ghazipur border where farmers from different districts of western U.P. are assembling, we have given the command to Mr. Tikait,” he said.