Podcast: Farm Laws India (Pagri Sambhal Oye Jatta – “Corporates” loot na lain terra Satkar oye)

The Farm Laws

  1. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Act 2020 (Promulgated on June 5, 2020, as an Ordinance and approved by Lok Sabha on September 17, Rajya Sabha on September 20, and the President of India on September 27.
  2. Farmers Produce Trade Commerce(Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
    (To deal with the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC)
  3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Provisions to make laws are governed by the lists under the Constitution.There are three lists:

  1. Union List – 97
  2. State List – 66
  3. Concurrent List – 47
    Repealing and Amendment Act, 2017
    Under this Act passed in 2017, 104 of the existing laws were repealed . Besides 3 Sections of the Taxation Laws, too, were partially Repealed.
    In fact the Union Government had identified 1877 Laws to be redundant to be repealed.
    This Act was approved by Lok Sabha on December 9, 2017 and by Rajya Sabha on December 28, 2017. On January 5, 2018, the President of India signed this Bill to make it a Law.

A comparison of three major agitations by farmers in Punjab:

  1. In 1907, when the British tried to introduce three new laws in agricultural sector, it met with serious opposition from Punjab farmers. As a retaliation to these laws, that were termed anti-farmer”, a peoples movement started in the then undivided Punjab. Its impact was much more in Western Punjab, now in Pakistan than rest of the State.
    The laws were introduced to control or legalise land holdings of the farmers besides regulating use of canal and river water for irrigation.
     A song – Pagri Sambhal Oye Jatta (O tiller of land, take care of your turban) – written by Lala Banqe Dyal went viral and was virtually on everybody’s lips. It was first sung publically in Lyallpur, now Faisalabad. And the “Pagri Sambhal Jatta agitation, mostly peaceful, that followed ultimately forced the British rulers first to suggest some amendments but later agreed to withdraw all the three laws. Among the leaders that played a lead role in the agitation were Sardar Kishan Singh and Sardar Ajit Singh, father and uncle of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Another leader of farmers was Mr. Ghasita Ram.
    2. One of the major agitations in post-independence India, Punjab farmers fought the “unprecedented” hike in power tariff. Describing power as most important ingredient in farm production, hundreds of thousands of farmers owing allegiance to the Bharti Kisan Union (BKU), started peaceful protests all over the State. After 14 months of these protests and demonstrations, they decided to move to Chandigarh to lay a siege to Punjab Raj Bhavan.  Reeling under militancy, the elected Government in the State was suspended and the Central Rule or President’s rule was introduced in the State. All the legislative and administrative powers were vested in the Governor, who at that time was a retired bureaucrat, Mr. B.D. Pande.  A couple of retired civil and defence officials were appointed his Advisers to help him in running the Administration besides controlling militancy.
    Intriguingly, this picketing of Punjab Raj Bhavan happened just 10 weeks before the “controversial Operation Bluestar”
    Unmindful of the State being under Central control with extra-Constitutional powers vested in security faces, including police and paramilitary, thousands of farmers carrying their essential supplies for several weeks descended on Chandigarh, the City Beautiful. They successfully laid a siege to Punjab Raj Bhavan in the posh northern Sectors to the great anguish of top civil and police functionaries besides members of the higher judicial services living there. The siege was complete and continued for a week. Farmers decided to lift the siege only after the State agreed to concede most of the demands of the “peaceful guests of the city. Interestingly, the entire agitation passed off peacefully though farmers had not only blocked Punjab Raj Bhavan but also the elitist Chandigarh Golf Club and the adjoining Haryana Raj Bhavan. Even after 36 years, many in Chandigarh still remember those “unwelcome” guests who later became friendly and adorable.

    3. The latest agitation by farmers was in reaction three Ordinances the NDA Government promulgated on June 7, 2020, to clear way for the corporate and private houses to invade the farm sector in a big way. The Ordinances were converted into what are described as Farm Laws in September with both the Houses of Parliament and the President putting their stamp on them to the great agony of farmers of India in general and Punjab in particular.
    The first reaction to the new laws was the resignation of Mrs. Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, from the Union Council of Ministers followed by withdrawal of SAD from its age-old alliance with the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) thus ending its membership of NDA.

    Staying clear of all political parties, thirty organizations of farmers started an agitation demanding immediate repeal of all three laws. Initially, the rail tracks, toll plazas and major outlets of two leading corporate – Reliance and Adani- were blocked before the peaceful protestors decided to move to the Union capital to continue their agitation there. Starting in the first week of November, hundreds and thousands of farmers in their self-reliant tractor trailers headed for Delhi. On way, they met with serious and stiff resistance from the BJP ruled Haryana State as tear gas shells, water cannon, huge boulders and all possible means were used to stop their progress. But determined farmers were too strong for all these barricades and stopped only at the Delhi borders that they decided to make their battle field. After blocking all possible entries to Delhi from Haryana, the agitating farmers then moved to block the Delhi-Jaipur highway in Rewari district in Haryana. Delhi-Jaipur highway in Rewari, The farmers at the blockade in Rewari came mainly from Gujarat and Maharashtra along with those from Rajasthan and Haryana. They were joined by Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India.

    The farmers have refused to  relent on their demand  for the repeal of three farm laws though the Centre through initial rounds of talks agreed to make some amendments in the “controversial laws. Their argument is that the basic idea behind the laws is flawed and that mere amendments won’t change that.

    Some leaders of the various factions also started day-long hunger strike on December 14.  The farmers have been extra careful to prevent outside interference. They have so far avoided gaining any political colours. The government has been repeatedly saying that it was ready to continue dialogue with the agitators.