Slowly, many forces that are fuelling farmers’ protests in India are getting exposed.
It is no longer solely about farmers’ interests. Commission agents and arhtiyas don’t want to lose their position of middlemen and moneylenders in agriculture. The reforms will free farmers from their clutches. In contrast, in a recent resolution of all-party meeting Congress demanded that the government agencies should continue to procure grains from farmers only through arhtiyas, the middlemen!
As discussed in our earlier article, it is evident that certain international lobbies don’t want India to pursue its course of reform in agriculture and labour reforms. These reforms, if pursued, promise to make India and even more favourable destination for companies already shifting their bases from China after the pandemic.
There are others who are using this to advance their political prospects, positioning themselves as farm leaders, while in reality their track record unambiguously speaks for their political affiliations.
Now, let’s explore another angle to the farmers’ protest. This starts with a simple question – who gets hurt if India emerges as a strong exporter of agriculture produce?
Answer Lies in Canada’s Double Standard on Farm Issue
It is known that the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised concerns over farm protests in India, and opined that farmers should be helped, while himself pursuing a contrary stand in the international forum. It turned out that Canada is actually against the Indian government giving MSP and subsidies to farmers.
Many said that the voicing of this statement was an attempt to address domestic politics of Canadian Prime Minister, since Canada has a sizeable Sikh population, mostly migrants from Punjab. That also perhaps explains the present Canadian government’s soft stance on Khalistani terror elements in that country that harbour divisive plans targeting India. While that needs a separate deliberation, it is not just about the pampering of Sikh community for political purpose.
Canada has been the biggest exporter of pulses to India. However, India under the Modi government in recent years worked to achieve self-sufficiency in pulse production while acting on import curbs. Now, the farm reforms will further pave the way for the diversification of crops. Market forces expected to incentivise farmers for growing nutrient-rich pulses rather than water-incentive crops like paddy and also excessive production of wheat.
This report from Reuters dated February 2020, may provide you the context.
The report states:
“In the 2016/17 fiscal year, Canada shipped a record 2.4 million tonnes of pulses but last year Canadian imports dropped to 121,861 tonnes. Record imports led to a drop in domestic prices in 2016/17. India then raised import taxes on some pulses to as high as 50% and introduced import quotas for others such as yellow peas, green gram and chickpeas. The import restrictions unnerved India’s traditional suppliers who grow pulses to meet the country’s annual requirements.”
India’s Possibility of Agri-Export Power is Visible
Amidst all the challenges in the pandemic year, India’s farm export saw a growth of 9.8% in 2020. As the report noted, “country’s export of all goods during April-December 2020 at $201.30 billion, down from the $238.27 billion for April-December 2019. In contrast, exports of agri-commodities have risen from $26.34 billion to $28.91 billion for this period.”
Though a good monsoon and favourable world prices were cited to be reasons for this growth, it proved that India can serve the world when it comes to agri-commodities. The farm reforms, which give farmers the freedom of entering into contact with the market players, are expected to further build India’s position.
It is any surprise then that the present international market forces that are dominating the scene see India’s emergence as a threat for them?
Just like Indian celebrities across the spectrum of entertainment, sports, and business showed solidarity against foreign propaganda over the farmer agitation, push back is also coming from subject experts in India against the designs of some nations at the international fora.
It is reported that 20 ex- Indian Foreign Service officials have written to the World Trade Organisation, and have categorically stated that it is the sovereign prerogative of governments to strike a balance between market forces and food security or farmers’ welfare. The letter hit out at political groups and legislators from the United States, United Kingdom and European Union for supporting the protests against the three farm laws.
Looking at all these events in context, it is perilous for anyone to think that the international conspiracy angle is merely imagination and farmers’ protests are everything about Indian farmers. Surrendering to such lobbies will only ensure that India will not emerge as a reckoning force in the post-pandemic world-order.