Cooperative Farming for the Future
Urgent steps need to be undertaken to end the ongoing farmers’ protest against the new farm laws. For over a month now farmers have been staging dharnas at various entry points of Delhi. Several rounds of talks have so far been held between the government and the farmers. But the talks remain inconclusive as the farmers continue to insist that the new laws be repealed forthwith and assurance be given on the continuance of the minimum support price (MSP). The farmers are raising these demands in fear of the entry of corporate houses in the agriculture sector in a big way. They are apprehensive that the profit driven corporate sector will always try to purchase farm produce by paying the least amount possible, which will defeat the very purpose of these new laws aimed at enhancing the income of farmers. So, the protesting farmers believe that the agriculture sector needs MSP safeguard in-order to prevent corporates from forcing them into disadvantageous situations. Even on the face of such a strong opposition, the government still maintains that the laws will bring revolutionary change in agriculture by removing the middleman system. The government argues that farmers will get proper prices for their yields through the new system. The government has also assured that it has no intention of abolishing MSP. Ruling out the possibility of repealing the Acts, the government has hinted that it is open to suggestions to strengthen the new laws. As both sides are sticking to their stands, it seems that a solution will continue to elude the parties until a middle ground is found.
To reach that meeting point, both the government and the farmers should revisit the factors that ails agriculture in India. Notwithstanding the fact that Indian economy is mainly based on agriculture, the said sector has not received its due diligence since Independence. It’s a pity that while farm produce has increased considerably over the years, the income of the farmers have gone down. Despite all reforms, small and marginal farmers are not yet entitled to get bank loans. So they are left with no alternatives but to borrow from private lenders at 18-20 per cent interest. On the other hand, big farmers, who are entitled to get bank loans, pay only 6-8 per cent as interest. Thus in the absence of any institutional support, the small and marginal farmers are not benefitted at all. Moreover, agriculture in India is still dependent on nature. A good monsoon means good harvest, while deficit rainfall affects farm production tremendously as irrigation facilities in India are still inadequate. To get rid of all these problems, what the agriculture sector in India needs most, is a cooperative farming system in the lines of Amul. If such a system becomes reality, the farmers can collectively face all hardships. It will increase their bargaining power. Cooperative farming will ensure proper utilisation of resources as it becomes a shared responsibility. So, in case of profit and loss, every member will be equally benefitted or affected. Such an initiative will surely help the Indian agriculture sector to reach new heights.