Farmers’ Groups Call for ‘Bharat Bandh’ amid Strike Against Farm Bills
A wide coalition of farmers groups from across the country have called for a mass protest and Bharat bandh on September 25 to oppose the legislation.
“We welcome the one India, one market that has been introduced by this new law, but we still want our demand for MSP guarantee to be included,” said Mohini Mohan Mishra, a general secretary with the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, which is affiliated to the RSS. “The PM has assured, Ministers have assured that MSP will continue, but we want it to be included in the law,” he said, adding that farmers also want the law to be amended to ensure that traders are registered with a bank guarantee even for purchases outside mandis.
“The Bills may have been passed by Parliament, but that does not stop the government from bringing in an amendment or even another law. The government is sensitised enough. We have made our point very clear that an amendment is needed to ensure that no purchase is lower than MSP. That will protect the farmer and the country’s food security. We will continue to demand for that,” said Ashwani Mahajan, co-convenor of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, which is also affiliated to the RSS.
The most visible protest is from Punjab and Haryana, with their high procurement rates and well-oiled system of arhatiyas or commission agents. “But remember that these are also States with high levels of migrant labour in agriculture, so lakhs of workers from poorer States are also dependent on them,” said Ashish Mittal of the All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha.
“Our problem with the Bills goes beyond the MSP issue to the whole issue of phasing out mandis. Yes, there is a need to improve mandis and create supply chain infrastructure, but let the government do that,” said Yudhvir Singh, general secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union. “You must recognise that farmers are far more vulnerable to exploitation outside the mandi system. We are producers, not agri-businesses. You cannot simply import the U.S. model where only 1% are family farmers. In India, 86% are small and marginal farmers.”