Won’t budge even an inch, too much at stake for us: Farmers
A day ahead of the next round of talks with the government, farmers protesting at Delhi’s borders said they will not budge an inch till the three new farm laws are not revoked. The farmers said they are under huge debt and that the new laws will make their condition even worse.
“I am under huge debt. My family will be on the streets if the government does not revoke the new farming bills,” said Jasdeep Singh from Bahadurpur village in Sungrur district of Punjab, one of the thousands of farmers protesting at the Singhu and Tikri borders for the last six days.
Explaining his situation, Singh said his family of six is completely dependent on the five acres land they own and use to produce wheat. “We produce around eight quintals of wheat and sell it at the mandis at a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs1,835 per quintal. Now, with no assurance of MSP in the new farm law, the corporates will not give us more than Rs 900 to Rs 1,000. Our income will be reduced to half. How will we survive and pay our debts in that situation?” he said.
Sitting next to him at Singhu border on Wednesday, Singh’s mother Amarjeet Kaur said, “Just four days before we left to participate in the protest, a family committed suicide in our neighbourhood after they failed to pay back their debt to the bank. These incidents will become frequent now.” She says her family has to repay a debt of Rs 8 lakh.
The farmers fear the new laws will do away with a guaranteed MSP, enabling private players to procure the produce at much lower rates. The government has been saying the MSP system will not be done away with.
Raising similar concerns, Karanweer Singh, a farmer from Charuni Jattan village of Kurukshetra in Haryana, said his family of 12 are dependent on the produce they harvest from their 15-acre land. “A major portion of our produce is consumed at home and the remaining is sold at the mandis on the MSP. What will we earn if there is no MSP? I will have to withdraw my children from schools because I won’t be able to pay their fees,” he said, adding his family has to repay a loan of Rs 4 lakh before the next harvesting season.
Balwinder Singh Rana, president of Majja Kisan Sangarsh Committee Punjab, said farmer associations across the country have decided not to accept anything but complete revocation of the three laws. “More than two lakh farmers from Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab will soon join us in our protest. We won’t accept any amendment in the laws. The government cannot do away with the mandi system and abolish the MSP.”
Kunwant Singh Sandhu, general secretary of Jamhuri Kisan Sabha (Punjab), said, “We will go for the meeting called by the Centre on Thursday but we will not accept anything other than complete revocation of the three laws.”
Several small farmers feared they will not be able to sell their produce outside the current mandi system. Kulwinder Singh, a farmer from Moga, said he cultivates wheat and rice on a two-acre land for his family of six. “The new laws have opened up the market for corporates. Now, the rich farmers, who have the resources and can sell their produce directly in cities like Delhi or Mumbai, will benefit. Small farmers like me will be in a disadvantaged position,” he said.
Pranjeet Singh, 65, a female farmer from Fatehabad in Haryana, said, “We are not sitting on the streets leaving our houses by choice. We are here so that the future generations don’t question us on how we let the government ruin their lives? The government can see smoke coming out of our farms from 500 kms, but they can’t listen to us when we are sitting at their doorstep.”