Why western UP farmers are silent on Centre’s new farm bills
The reason farm leaders gave was that unlike Punjab and Haryana, the network of fruit and vegetable markets is not so strong in western Uttar Pradesh and impact of the farm reform laws would be much less in a primarily sugarcane growing region of the country.Updated: Sep 18, 2020, 21:54 IST
Western Uttar Pradesh, from where several farm protests originated, is relatively silent on the three controversial farm bills that have angered farmers in Punjab and Haryana.
The reason farm leaders gave was that unlike Punjab and Haryana, the network of fruit and vegetable markets is not so strong in western Uttar Pradesh and impact of the farm reform laws would be much less in a primarily sugarcane growing region of the country.
“Most of the crops in western UP are bought by mills and therefore, the role of markets is limited. Therefore, farmers here, unlike Punjab and Haryana, are much affected by the changes being made in the farm laws,” said Naresh Takait, vice-president of Bharatiya Kisan Union.
The Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Acts regulates the fruit and vegetable markets in the country.
Most farmers here grow sugarcane, the region’s cash crop. Paddy and wheat is also grown in some areas. “Entire sugarcane crop is sold directly to the mills. The cane prices are controlled by the government. Paddy is also bought mostly by the private players,” he said.
Another BKU leader, Rakesh Takait, said, “The farmers’ agitation against the three agriculture laws is largely confined to Punjab and Haryana so far. This is because commission agents and markets have a strong network in the two states and they feel abolition of the market system will affect them the most,” he said.
Farmers in Haryana and Punjab are up in arms against the three ordinances promulgated by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on June 5 to reform the agriculture sector. On Thursday, Shiromani Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur, minister of food processing industries, resigned from the Union cabinet in support of agitating farmers.
The BKU, which is heading the protest in Punjab, is not against the laws but wants certain amendments to secure farmers’ interests.
“First, there should be a provision binding private traders not to buy farmers’ produce below the minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the government. Second, a maximum storage limit of food grains by traders must be fixed and third the mandi tax should be abolished for farmers,” Rakesh said, adding that farmers were earlier also allowed to sell produce outside mandis.
To express solidarity with farmers in Punjab and Haryana, farmers would soon hit roads.
“But we are starting the agitation in UP as well with protests at all the district headquarters in the state on September 23,” Rakesh said.
The opposition parties are also opposing the law.
The Samajwadi Party (SP), the principal opposition party in the state, has not made up its mind on protests on the issue.
“We have been opposed to the ordinances since day one because these laws, we feel, are anti-farmer and pro-corporate,” SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said. When asked if the party had any plan for protests, he said, “Our leader Akhilesh Yadav will take a call on the issue of agitation.”
RLD general secretary Anil Dubey said the bills were anti-farmer and demanded the government withdraw them, though he said there was no plan as of now for statewide protests.“The party has organised some demonstrations in western UP,” he said.
“Experts had been advocating agriculture market reforms for years together and the new agriculture laws in this regard are a welcome step. Their positive impact will be visible after two years or so,” said AK Singh, an economist and former director of Giri Institute of Developmental Studies.
The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, in the meantime, has issued a notice to the Centre and the UP government asking them to file an affidavit to a writ petition filed challenging the Constitutional validity of “The Farmers’ Produce and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020”.
The two-member bench comprising Justice Pankaj Kumar Jaiswal and Justice Dinesh Kumar, in an order passed on August 26, gave six weeks’ time to file the affidavit.
In their writ, filed through counsel Madhav Chaturvedi, petitioners Ashok Kumar and Satyanarayan Tripathi, both residents of Etawah, pleaded that the said ordinance was unconstitutional and hence urged the court to quash the same.