Since July, after the central government introduced three ordinances related to procurement and sale of agricultural produce, farmers in Haryana and Punjab have been protesting against the new policies. These protests intensified significantly after the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha passed the ordinances as bills—the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.
In the ongoing farmers’ movement in Haryana, a farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni has emerged as a prominent face. Chaduni has been leading farmer agitations in Haryana for nearly thirty years. He is also the president of the Haryana unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Union. He has organised several large demonstrations in Haryana against the three ordinances that have now been passed into law.
Mandeep Punia and Amit Ohlan, two independent journalists, spoke to Chaduni about the bills and the current regime’s approach to farmers’ issues.
Mandeep Punia: Till 1980 or 1990, there were many members of Parliament who were represented peasant politics. This is no longer true. Parliament now seems to have become a club of millionaires. So, is it not meaningless to look towards it for reform?
Gurnam Singh Chaduni: You are right. At this time, there is not a single MP raising the voice of farmers in Parliament. But what do we do? We have sent these MPs to Parliament by voting. Now if they are doing this to us, then our only option is to agitate, which we are doing. In the 2019 [Lok Sabha] elections, we had tried to send some farmer representatives to Parliament, but people voted in the name of religion and caste instead of farming. Now,the people who were voted in are betraying farmers and have brought anti-farmer bills to make Ambani-Adani richer [referring to the billionaire businessmen Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani].
Amit Ohlan: What is there in these three bills that will break the back of the farmers, which the agitating farmers are not at all happy with?
GSC: There are two or three such things in these three ordinances that are a deathly blow to farmers. These laws promote the sale and purchase of products outside the mandis [government-run vegetable marketplaces]. The tax that is applicable inside mandis will not apply in the marketplaces outside, so all traders will start buying produce outside, and gradually the mandis will fizzle out. With the end of mandis, the minimum support price, or MSP, will also be automatically eliminated. In this scenario, we are demanding that the government bring a law that makes it illegal to buy below MSP outside the mandi and that offenders be punished with imprisonment for five years.