Specials http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials.rss en Sat Aug 31 16:53:07 IST 2019 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html lawless-wedlock <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/lawless-wedlock.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/12/10/20-Lawless-wedlock.jpg" /> <p><b>LAKSHMI, 15,</b> was married off to a 35-year-old man this May. She was in the care of her maternal aunt in Mandya, Karnataka; her widowed mother works as a security guard in Mysuru, and had asked the aunt to take care of Lakshmi. The mother had no idea about the wedding.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the constant sexual and mental harassment by the “husband” reached tipping point, Lakshmi left the house. She fell into the hands of child traffickers and was rescued by the police on November 21. The girl revealed that a man and a woman posing as a couple had forced her into the flesh trade by promising her food and shelter. She was escorted to various hotels for sex work, which she was told was easy money. The couple reportedly made 04,000 a day by exploiting Lakshmi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Based on a tipoff we raided a lodge, but the girl had escaped,” said Sujana, a social worker who was part of the rescue team. “But the second time, we were lucky. We had kept a watch on the woman who turned out to be a brothel keeper; the man was a pimp. The girl revealed that many other girls were also working for these traffickers.”</p> <p>Lakshmi’s is not a unique story. Loss of livelihood, poverty and financial distress during the pandemic has forced many parents and guardians in Karnataka to marry off their minor wards.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More importantly, the shutting down of schools since March has not just deprived children of education and mid-day meals, but also of a safe space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“At least 170 cases of child marriage have been reported in Mysuru district in the past seven months,” said Parashu, founder of Mysuru-based NGO Odanadi Seva Samsthe. “Two child marriage victims have been rescued from traffickers in Mysuru district alone.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the absence of schools, the lockdown had exposed children to many dangers. “We tracked 59 cases during the lockdown, but we suspect many more child marriages have gone unreported,” said Sudarshan, Childline (1098) coordinator in Raichur. His office gets nearly 130 distress calls every month, a majority of them related to child marriage and abuse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On November 2, Tara, 16, called Childline, asking to be saved from marriage. But she soon grew anxious; she went to the fields outside her home and drank pesticide. Child protection officers tracked her in time and saved her. Tara’s lover had been jailed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012; her father had fixed her marriage to a “suitable” groom to escape social stigma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An investigating officer said love affairs were the main reason for child marriages. “The schools are shut and girls who are mostly idle are being lured into affairs by vagabonds,” said another police officer who did not want to be identified. “Some older men offer good money to the girl’s parents to marry their daughter. Parents are opposed to love affairs and the fear of social stigma is pushing them to quickly fix the marriage of their minor daughters [and send them] to respectable families.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, Manoj, a 30-year-old private bus driver, befriended and sexually exploited Meera, a class eight student from Virajpet. She became pregnant. Her widowed mother tried to get them married, only to realise that Manoj had a wife. The police arrested Manoj under the POCSO Act. “He used to threaten me saying he would kill himself if I did not go out with him. Now, I have a seven-month-old baby boy and I want to raise him well,” said Meera, who is now in a shelter home in Mysuru.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In October, Rashmi, a 16-year-old from Maddur, eloped and married a tender coconut vendor. The couple rented a house on the outskirts of Bengaluru. But their neighbours suspected that the girl had been trafficked—she was living with four unrelated men. A child rescue team saved her and the “husband” was booked under the POCSO Act.</p> <p>The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (which came into force in November 2007), made offences under the act cognisable and nonbailable. Yet, it has not been an absolute deterrent. On top of that, the lockdown has led to the collapse of the child marriage monitoring system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Earlier, the onus of reporting absentee girl students was on the headmaster,” said Parashu, who is also a member of the Karnataka State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. “Every official in the village—from the anganwadi teacher… to revenue inspector—is a child marriage prevention officer. But now, the marriages are being carried out in secrecy. Many victims are being identified only during the pregnancy when they visit the hospital for prenatal care. The doctors are alerting the child protection officers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The government officials are busy with Covid-19 duty, which has also weakened the network. Now, only Childline gets the distress calls or calls from informants. The Santwana Kendras (care centres), which were providing succour to the aggrieved women and children, have become defunct because of the pandemic.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The child protection officers in Raichur, where child marriages are rampant, had anticipated a decline in the trend during lockdown as there would be restricted mobility and loss of income. But they were in for a shock. “Even with the absence of a robust reporting and monitoring system, at least 59 cases have been reported since April,” said Sudarshan. “The parents are conducting the marriages in a hush-hush manner and early in the morning to escape the scrutiny of the police. The families are rushing to get young girls married as the wedding during Covid-19 works out to be cheaper, with fewer guests and less dowry.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Parashu: “Some parents are going to Kerala and far-off places to get their minor children married. The parents ask their minor daughters not to wear the mangalasutra and toe ring to keep the marriage a secret. The minor girls live with their husbands though the law forbids them from doing so, till they turn 18.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two years ago, Smriti, a 15-year-old in H.D. Kote, got married to 27-year-old Ravi; her mother, a cancer patient, had put pressure on her. Smriti was sexually assaulted by her brother-in-law, but found no support from her in-laws or husband. Then, during the lockdown, her brother-in-law got engaged to her younger sister Sharana, 15. Child marriage prevention officers intervened and counselled the families. But Smriti was kicked out regardless. She refused to go back to her parents and was referred to Odanadi by the district Child Welfare Committee. She has now enrolled for a pre-university course.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I wanted to marry off both my daughters early as I am unwell,” said Sarojamma. “We married off the elder daughter as we found a good match. We wanted to get the younger one married during the lockdown, but the officers prevented it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Those who uphold the law are not always welcome. For instance, anganwadi workers who have their ear to the ground run the risk of antagonising the community when they report a case. “We often take the blame for stopping these marriages as the families feel we ruined a good alliance,” said Rajeshwari (name changed), an anganwadi worker in Hunsur taluk. “Many people curse us and some threaten us. With the lockdown, we see parents toiling hard for a living and adolescent girls getting addicted to mobile phones, chatting with boys and strangers. Parents are anxious and fear their daughters might elope or end up pregnant as there is no adult in the family to monitor them during the day. We empathise with the families as they are in financial distress and want to get their daughter settled. But child marriages need to be prevented as early marriage and motherhood can be a burden and very traumatic for the young girl.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While activists complain that the police file few charge-sheets, the latter complain of political pressure. “The local politicians always interfere in these cases and want us to let the erring families go scot-free,” said an investigating officer. “We file FIRs, arrest the groom under the POCSO Act, and get the medical examination done before filing the charge-sheet. But the girl refutes her earlier statement (of being married) before the magistrate as she is tutored. In many cases, the newly married couple goes underground and becomes untraceable. The entire village turns hostile towards officers trying to prevent child marriages.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pradeep, a part of Odanadi’s rescue team, said many parents even “produce fabricated school-leaving certificates to prove that the girl is a major”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Activists say that child marriages cannot be prevented with stringent laws alone; the social structure in rural society still considers a girl child an “economic burden”, who should be married off once she attains puberty to avoid future embarrassment from possible affairs, elopement and pregnancies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In the pre-child marriage counselling, the families are asked to sign a disclosure stating they will refrain from conducting the marriage till the girl turns 18,” said Sudarshan. “But poor follow-ups and monitoring allow families to perform the wedding stealthily. In the post-child marriage cases, the girl will be prevented from going to her marital home till she turns 18.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>State Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar admitted that there has been a rise in the number of child marriages and child labour because of schools being shut. The Karnataka High Court, on November 6, echoed a similar concern and directed the government to decide on resuming the Vidyagama Scheme—an informal teaching programme conducted in open spaces in villages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A division bench of Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice N.S. Sanjay Gowda, while observing that “extraordinary situations call for extraordinary remedies”, has directed the government to gather funds through corporate social responsibility to provide laptops, tablets and computers to students to ensure there is no break in education.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Names of all victims and relatives have been changed.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/lawless-wedlock.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/lawless-wedlock.html Thu Dec 10 18:03:08 IST 2020 digging-their-heels-in <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/digging-their-heels-in.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/12/10/42-A-farmer-takes-rest-during.jpg" /> <p>In the sixth edition of Mann Ki Baat, in March 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured farmers that their interests would be protected under the amended land acquisition bill, which had been passed in the Lok Sabha a few days earlier. The bill, an improvement over the one passed by the United Progressive Alliance government, was to make land acquisition easy for creation of infrastructure. But as farmers’ protest grew, and with the opposition pitching in, Modi, in the eleventh edition of his popular radio programme in August 2015, announced that the legislation would not be ratified. He kept the politically important farmers’ constituency by his side.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On November 29 this year, in the 18th edition of Mann Ki Baat 2.0, Modi reassured farmers of the benefits of three new laws—the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act. The farmers persisted with their protest. But, this time, the government, too, has remained adamant as it thinks the laws would increase incomes of farmers countrywide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government agreed to tweak certain contentious sections of the laws to placate farmers, who have been blocking entry points to Delhi for over two weeks. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had to step in to make the offer to farmers’ unions after meetings between farmers’ leaders and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar failed. In the proposal sent to the farmers’ bodies, the government offered to give written guarantee on MSP. It also said it would make suitable changes in laws to allow farmers to approach civil courts in case of disputes (only sub-divisional magistrates were allowed to hear cases under the new laws), make registration of contract farming within 30 days mandatory, and that the state governments could regulate non-APMC mandis and make their registration mandatory. The government also proposed to provide suitable changes on penal provisions against farmers burning stubble and assured that no changes will be made in farmers’ electricity payment mechanism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, after five rounds of government-farmer meetings, these “cosmetic” changes were not what the farmers were looking for. “We totally reject the government proposals,” said Dr Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union, on December 9. The farmers’ bodies have decided to escalate their protests across the country and try new methods. They plan to block more highways, occupy toll plazas and boycott products of conglomerates like Reliance and the Adani Group, and of companies owned by BJP leaders. Ruldu Singh Mansa of Bharatiya Kisan Union said: “My father suffered the partition in 1947, I witnessed 1984 (riots). Now, my grandson is witnessing the current protests. He will write history. A farmer can die of snake bites or [accidental] electrocution, then how can he be afraid of police bullets. We will continue till our demands are met.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The protest has become a cultural movement with popular Punjabi singers coming out with resistance songs warning the Centre against usurping the rights of farmers. The farmers, for their part, have been more nuanced in comparison with earlier movements. The protest is strictly non-violent, farmers have rejected food offered by ministers during meetings and have even kept silent during the meetings. Vigilant volunteers are keeping their eyes peeled for mischief makers at the sites. Farmers have also kept political parties away from their forums. They are meticulously organising the massive inflow of rations and have been astute in choosing whom to engage with, even in the media.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Protests have been reported from foreign countries which have a significant Punjabi diaspora. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, too, backed the cause. Shiv Kumar Kakkaji, a farmers’ leader from Madhya Pradesh said: “We thank Justin Trudeau, but we will not accept interference from outside. We are nationalists.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The opposition, as expected, has lent its support to the farmers. A joint opposition delegation met President Ramnath Kovind with the plea that the government should repeal the laws. There are eight states going to polls in the next two years, and opposition parties, particularly in the agrarian states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due in 2022, will be hoping to build momentum against the BJP. With the Punjab elections in mind, the Congress, the Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party are playing a game of who-contributed-the-most-to-the-protest. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh brought legislation to counter the Centre’s laws. The Akali Dal withdrew from the National Democratic Alliance and the AAP refused the Centre’s request to turn nine stadiums in Delhi into jails.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress is hoping to put the Centre in a tight spot, as it did in 2015 when Rahul Gandhi’s “suit boot ki sarkar” jibe found the mark. “The talks which are taking place between the farmers and the government should have happened before the ordinance (promulgated on June 5) and before the bill was passed,” said Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jhakhar. “The Centre should not learn from the US, where lobbyists influence policy.” He added that corporatising agriculture was unacceptable. Principal Budhram, AAP MLA from Budhlada, Punjab, said he had travelled to Delhi with the farmers. He said the party would stand with the farmers who are being “looted” in the guise of privatisation. Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had stayed away during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, for which Delhi was the epicentre. But, he visited the Singhu Border, one of the sites of the farmers’ protest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP accused the opposition of double standards as they had, in the past, called for reforms in agriculture. The government’s insistence on standing its ground also stems from the fact that despite all the opposition to its various policies, it has been getting resounding affirmations in the elections. “All the good steps taken by Prime Minister Modi have made some opposition parties fret and fume,” said Tomar. “They cannot digest the good work done by the government. They are trying to hide their politicking behind farmer interests.” He added that it was wrong of the opposition to interfere with the interests of the country’s farmers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress had promised to repeal the APMC Act in its English manifesto and promised to make amendments to it in its Hindi manifesto. “In a news conference in 2013, Rahul Gandhi had declared that fruits and vegetables would be removed from the ambit of the APMC Act,” said Prasad. “He had also promised to make amendments in the Essential Commodities Act.” He added that in 2010 and 2011, then Union agriculture and consumer affairs minister Sharad Pawar had written letters to chief ministers asking them to immediately implement the Model APMC Act and make amendments in the State APMC Act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government’s argument in favour of the new laws stem from the fact that the MSP was not being availed by a majority of farmers. The 2015 Shanta Kumar committee report said just 5.8 per cent of all agricultural households had sold paddy and wheat to any procurement agency (on MSP). The panel said that the government needed to revisit its MSP policy as it was skewed in favour of paddy and wheat, and that the Food Corporation of India should hand over procurement to the states. This is as mandated under the new laws. But now, farmers from states like Punjab and Haryana, who were availing MSP, may not get adequate government protection for their crops and would thus be left at the mercy of the markets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The farmers’ agitation has kickstarted a debate on the agriculture sector, which had been relegated to the background for years. The hope is that it will define the contours of future political engagement unlike other movement of the recent past.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/digging-their-heels-in.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/digging-their-heels-in.html Thu Dec 10 16:15:34 IST 2020 reforms-look-at-long-term-interests-of-farmers <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/reforms-look-at-long-term-interests-of-farmers.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/12/10/45-Narendra-Singh-Tomar.jpg" /> <p>The Narendra Modi government has been continuously taking farmer-friendly measures, says Union minister of agriculture and farmers welfare Narendra Singh Tomar. In an exclusive interview to THE WEEK, Tomar claims that the new farm reform laws will give farmers freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the country, and strike a deal even before sowing their crop, which will increase their income.&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from the interview:<br> &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The new farm laws have led to protests. Your views?</b></p> <p>The Narendra Modi government has been continuously taking farmer-friendly measures. Recognizing the gaps in various fields, Modi started taking concrete steps to overcome them since becoming the Prime Minister: In this agriculture sector has taken priority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These agriculture reforms keep in mind the long-term interests of the farmers.&nbsp;Through these laws, farmers have been given freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the country, and strike a deal even before sowing their crop, which will increase their income. The government also aims to increase production and productivity in agriculture so that farmers are prosperous.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you think the protests are politically motivated?</b></p> <p>All the good steps taken by Modi have made some opposition parties fret and fume. They cannot digest the good work done by the government [and] are trying to do politics hiding behind the farmer interests. If the politicians want to oppose, they should come out in the open and speak out directly. It is completely wrong for the opposition parties to interfere with the interests of the country's farmers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Critics say the government has done little for farmers.</b></p> <p>Under the PM Kisan Yojana, about Rs 1 lakh crore has been transferred to the account of 10 crore farmers. Adequate arrangements have been made to ensure there is no shortage of fertilizer. To increase the income of small and medium farmers and to promote cluster-based farming, 10,000 farmer-producer organisations are being set up. Through the Pradhan Mantri Crop Insurance Scheme, provisions have been made to compensate farmers for damaged crops. In the last three and a half years, a premium of Rs17,738 crore was deposited, while five times that amount, Rs 87,000 crore, was disbursed for their claims.</p> <p><br> In the last nine months, 1.48 crore Kisan Credit Cards were distributed and an additional loan of Rs1.34 lakh crore was sanctioned. The Rs1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund will provide facilities through private investment, allowing farmers to store produce and sell it later at a better price. The agriculture budget in 2013-14 was Rs27,000 crore, while in this financial year, it is Rs 2.83 lakh crore. This makes the government's commitment towards agriculture [evident].<br> &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Farmers want legal guarantee on minimum support price.</b></p> <p>The government is constantly in talks with the representatives of the farmers organizations. It has been clarified that the MSP will continue. The prime minister has assured this, as I have said in both the houses of Parliament.</p> <p>After Modi came to power, the MSP of various agricultural produce increased steadily. During the ongoing kharif marketing season, about 37.38 lakh farmers have benefited from the procurement operations, with MSP value of Rs 67,248.22 crore (till December 9), which is much higher than last year. In 2013-14, the MSP of wheat was Rs1,400 per quintal, which increased to Rs1,975 in 2020-21. Similarly, there has been a 43 per cent increase in the MSP of paddy in the last six years. In 2013-14, the then government spent Rs33,874 crore on the purchase of wheat, whereas our government spent Rs 62,802 crore in 2019-20, which is 85 per cent more than the UPA government. Likewise, the amount is 192 per cent more for paddy.</p> <p><br> &nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Farmers are firm that the new laws be repealed. Will you agree?</b></p> <p>There have been five rounds of meetings between the government and representatives of farmer organisations. We told them to give in writing any objections they have on the laws, so that they can be resolved. They raised a few points, which we considered. They have been assured that the MSP will continue. The APMC <i>mandis </i>operated by the states will continue. Both of these (MSP and APMC) are not even mentioned in the new laws…The Centre’s thinking is to ensure increased income for farmers, and greater convenience in selling their produce. The farmers should have an alternative system for selling their corps…In case of a dispute between a farmer and a buyer, there is a provision to approach the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM). When this issue was raised, the government said that if there is a better system available, then it would be considered.</p> <p><br> &nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How will you assure farmers that their interests will be protected?</b></p> <p>The Modi government is a farmer-friendly government. Modi<i>ji </i>courageously implemented 200 of the 201 Swaminathan Committee recommendations. No government before Modi<i>ji</i> has started so many schemes for agriculture. The budget allocated for agriculture and farmer welfare and rural development ministries has been much more than that of the previous governments. To support farmers’ income, under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, Rs6,000 per year was deposited in bank accounts. Has this happened before? The government will spend Rs6,850 crore on the Farmers’ Produce Organisation scheme, and another Rs1.5 lakh crore under the Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme. Which government before this has given so much?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from strengthening farmers economically, efforts are made to strengthen agricultural research and the adoption of modern technology. Even in the new education policy, the government is strengthening agriculture education. This government is a government for the poor, farmers and villagers.</p> <p><br> &nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Have the new laws started benefiting farmers?</b></p> <p>The laws are being implemented, and farmers are benefiting from them. A case came to our notice where a Maharashtra farmer Jitendra Bhoi did not get the entire payment for the maize crop he sold to a trader in Madhya Pradesh. He petitioned the SDM. The SDM got the complainant the full outstanding amount. These laws will prove to be revolutionary.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/reforms-look-at-long-term-interests-of-farmers.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/reforms-look-at-long-term-interests-of-farmers.html Fri Dec 11 19:01:14 IST 2020 farm-laws-are-the-biggest-assault-on-farmers <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/farm-laws-are-the-biggest-assault-on-farmers.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/12/10/47-Balbir-Singh-Rajewal-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Tell us about the farmers’ struggle.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We came to know about the government’s intention in 2017. I had come to [Delhi to] attend a meeting of the Niti Aayog [then]. I wrote an article to educate people about their intentions. Then I started collecting documents, including the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) reports on kharif and rabi. It mentioned that the government should get out of the business of procurement. I called all political parties of Punjab [this] February 17 and presented the documents before them to educate them on what the government was up to. They were of the opinion that if we did not fight collectively, then Punjab would not be saved. Now, it is a different matter that they are involved in their own politicking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>When was the decision to protest taken?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When ordinances were issued on June 5, we collected all farmers. This was a new experience of my life, that when we sit, we discuss everything threadbare, and take a decision. This gives me hope that no one can defeat such a move.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Why oppose the farm laws?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These are the biggest assault on farmers. It is a systematic campaign to undermine farmers. When you read the CACP reports, you understand that the formula to formulate minimum support price (MSP) is faulty. I told ministers that you waive off 08 lakh crore nonperforming assets every year, which only gives employment to 5-7 per cent people. But, in farming, 80 per cent people, be it farmers or labourers, are dependent on it. But you don’t have money for them. If you want to double farmers’ income, why not set up 48,000 mandis across the country on the Punjab pattern, and start procurement? The income will automatically increase.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>But the government has assured that MSP will stay.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The MSP for paddy is Rs1,888 per quintal. The same lot from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh is sold at Rs1,000 in Punjab. This means that farmers there are getting less than Rs1,000 as they do not have an APMC. If the government exits procurement, then how will farmers gain? I have also learnt that rules under the new laws are getting framed. Under the list of purchasers, the government agencies are being kept out. This means that the government will not procure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is the next step?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the first time that people have understood that we must stay non-violent. People have understood that if they turn violent, the movement will fail. Farmers are joining in from other states. They may not be able to reach here as all trains are not operational. But we will stay here as long as possible. We are ready to face any government action. But we will go for talks.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/farm-laws-are-the-biggest-assault-on-farmers.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/farm-laws-are-the-biggest-assault-on-farmers.html Sun Dec 13 16:17:16 IST 2020 fire-in-the-belly <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/fire-in-the-belly.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/12/10/50-Many.jpg" /> <p>Tanupreet Singh, an advocate from Jalandhar, is standing with his eyebrows furrowed just outside one of the many barricades at the Delhi-Haryana border in Singhu where farmers from across Punjab and Haryana have gathered to protest the Centre’s new farm laws. Clad in a white coat, he is holding a placard, to express solidarity with the agitating farmers, along with a group of medical volunteers and doctors who have arrived with ambulances full of medicines and testing machines. Arguments are heating up with the police force deployed at this particular barricade. “Yesterday also we had such trouble getting in. I do not understand. We are here with medical supplies. We are here for sewa,” says Tanupreet, lines creasing his face with indignation. Another volunteer overhears snatches of conversation in the ensuing ruckus and his face suddenly breaks into a grin. “We are so tired of being labelled ‘Khalistanis’ by the godi media that some of us have just given up and said ‘Yes, we are Khalistanis, now come and take us on’,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A day at the Singhu border, swept over by waves upon waves of protesters from India’s farming community, is to experience a heady mix of hurt, pride and hearty defiance. Beyond the barricades, running back kilometres into the dusty horizon is a patchwork of tractors, trolleys, vats bubbling with cooked food, rousing speeches, and clarion calls of “bole so nihal” and “har maidan fateh”. “We are not going anywhere until these evil bills are repealed,” says Bhinder Singh, a farmer, from southern Punjab. “We will keep our dera [camp] here. We have all the ration and milk we need. The whole world is contributing.” He has been living out of his tractor for the last two days. “We have big roti-making machines here; no one is even making it with hands,” says Bhinder. “Sometimes there is gajar ki sabzi and sometimes there is matar ki sabzi. In fact, there is so much food coming in, we are asking people to donate it elsewhere.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Metres away from Bhinder, a traditional Khalsa drink, Shaheedi Degh, is being prepared. Kilos of almonds, black pepper, sugar, rose petals and cardamoms are being ground in a mortar by sewadars; the conventional recipe of the health drink often has cannabis, too. “We will stay here, eat here, die here. That is what the government should be worried about,” says one of the sewadars as he heartily crushes and grinds dry fruits with a big, fat pestle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A little further away, two young boys from Hoshiarpur, Punjab, are bathing in the afternoon sun by drawing water out of a 6,000-litre tank. “Everybody here takes a bath like this under the open skies. Even if the bills are withdrawn, we will stay here for seven more days. Fateh kar ke hi jayenge [We will not go before conquering],” says Balwinder Singh, another boy from Jalandhar, in complete sync with his new environment at the capital’s gates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the heart of this united front seething with rage is the belief that farmers know what is best for their survival and they quite understand the larger implications of the new farm laws. Posters on tractors repeat the same thought. How exactly are farmers benefiting from the entry of private players, is one constant refrain. “What was the pressing need to pass three controversial farm bills in 2020, the worst year of the century? Who are they trying to please? Adani-Ambani? All the farmers in India are against it,” rails 65-year-old K.P. Singh, chief spokesperson of Amritsar-based Akhand Kirtani Jatha. His organisation now holds daily Gurbani kirtans at the protest site to sustain their brethren’s charhdi kala or the spirit of buoyancy and optimism. As he speaks, a huddle begins to form with older members of the organisation enthusiastically chipping in. “Modi and Co. are needlessly selling us things we do not want. They have no farming background or knowledge. It is like going to a shopkeeper, asking for a specific brand and being sold something cheaper and unbranded. Like I am not hungry and you still want to force-feed me,” says a 75-year-old protestor, Gurudayal Singh. “Our kids are fighting wars in the borders and we, their parents, are fighting a war here. We are not leaving without conquering Delhi.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His friend, K.P. Singh, who has already recovered from Covid-19 in Punjab, rubbishes fears of Covid-19. “I got Corona when I did not even step out of my house,” he says. “Everyone will get it. It is not a factor here. There is always a virus scare when it suits them.” Soon, a female member of the group from Delhi chimes in to roaring applause: “This is a poor man’s country. Every class lives here. You think this is bloody America that you can bring in all this privatisation in agriculture. Farmers are the backbone of this country. Who fed the jobless and the homeless during the lockdown? We will support all the farmers every day and keep up their spirits. Because if that flags, this country will perish. That is real patriotism.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To add greater depth and diversity to the movement, women and students have been lending their support in increasing numbers. ASHA workers can be seen criss-crossing the site with medicines and day-to-day essentials for female protestors, including sanitary pads. “If women want to stay somewhere indoor for the night, we arrange it for them,” says Sunita, an ASHA worker. “They need to bathe, wash clothes or rest, for all that a colleague has lent us his home. We also have an office space here where we keep our stuff, where women can charge their phones and sleep.” Sangeeta, who is part of the Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Manch, an organisation based in Delhi University, says that washroom and sanitation facilities are some of the major issues for women at the protest site. She is pursuing a certificate course in Punjabi from Delhi University and is stationed at Singhu with her union members. “We also have to put up with the feudal mindset here. There are taunts about our presence. But we are here because we do not want this movement to become all about male hierarchy,” says Sunita, who points to a series of colourful posters painted by her friend Monica that encapsulates the demands and concerns of farmers in pithy Hindi, English and Punjabi lines. From “Water cannons, tear gas, lathis can break our bones, but not our spirit” to “Fruits, grains, vegetables can cross the Delhi border, but not the farmers to fight for their rights”, Monica says she is using art to reclaim the voices of the farming community.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ranjit Singh, an MPhil researcher from Punjabi University in Patiala, has been camping at Singhu to distribute books, pamphlets and explainers at the protest site, along with mobilising the youth to lend their voices. He waits under a tent, sipping chai on a mattress, as he listens to a speech by a student activist from his college commanding a gathering of hundreds of farmers. “Our university students are all well-read and are well apprised of the issues, they knew beforehand what was coming,” says Ranjit. “When the bills were passed, they went to villages to warn the farmers on how the bill will affect them, concerns on minimum support price and storage. People are spreading inane allegations of Khalistan operators; we are here to dispel these myths.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Hardeep Singh, a thin lanky college student prepares gobi ki sabzi as part of langar while singing a folk tune, ‘lehran ban uttho...’, to himself, he says with a knowing smile, “If need be we will have to offer kurbani [act of sacrifice] here, but there is no budging from our demands.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/fire-in-the-belly.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/fire-in-the-belly.html Thu Dec 10 18:08:10 IST 2020 the-madha-model <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/the-madha-model.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/12/10/54-Ranjitsinh-Disale.jpg" /> <p><b>ENGINEERING’S LOSS</b> is teaching’s gain. Had Ranjitsinh Disale not quit engineering in 2006, he would have been an IT professional in India or abroad. Disale, who on December 3 won the Global Teacher prize (given by the Varkey Foundation in partnership with UNESCO), was traumatised by the ragging in engineering college. “I was depressed and lost my confidence,”he said. “I quit engineering and enrolled for a diploma in education.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was his father, retired government school principal Mahadev Disale, who advised him to take the course. He did not want his son to sit idle at home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was during the course that Disale discovered his calling, thanks to two of his teachers—Amar Nalavade and Rajendra Mane. “Nalavade sir taught me that a teacher can also be a friend to his students,”he said. “He was frank and open-minded. That is when I felt I should continue in education.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale met Mane during the internship after his course. Within a week of meeting him, Mane handed over one of his classes to Disale for the entire six months of the internship. “Mane sir is like a god for teachers like me in Solapur district,” said Disale. “He did not marry because he felt it would divert his attention. He used to live on the school premises and held extra classes till 11 in the night. The villagers took care of his food and other needs so that he could focus on teaching. He taught me the real responsibility of being a teacher.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale joined the government primary school at Paritewadi, a hamlet in Madha taluk of Solapur district, in January 2009. He was a probationer for the first three years, earning a princely salary of Rs3,000 a month. His first classroom was an in-use cow shed. He had 27 students, but only a handful came every day; no girl student attended. The other students used to work the fields with their parents. “The main attraction for those who came was the mid-day meal,” said Disale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He would take attendance every morning and then head out to the homes of the other students to persuade their parents. “It took me almost seven months to convince them,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale conducted a survey to understand why the parents did not want their children in school. He realised that the women there were more educated than men. Most of the fathers had quit school after class four of five to take up farming or construction jobs. The mothers, on the other hand, had passed class 10; an educated girl was easier to get married. “After I realised this, I formed a group of all mothers and began holding meetings regularly,” said Disale. “This was my own community-engagement programme.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having achieved full attendance, Disale’s next challenge was to ensure that the students stayed in school. “I had to do something to make them like the thought of attending school every day,”he said. “I asked my father to buy me a laptop in 2010. I carried it to school and began showing the students Hindi films, in addition to teaching them. They enjoyed this and word spread that if you went to school, you get to watch a movie.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale also began telling parents about the importance of getting children to study at home every day. He installed a siren at school. It would blare every day at 7pm and 8pm, to mark the start and close of study hour. He asked parents to ensure that the children studied and completed their homework in that one hour. “Every day I used to send text messages to parents, asking them to make their children recite the poem that I had taught in class or make them do 10 sums that I had taught that day,” said Disale. “This way, the parents began to understand their responsibility and the children began to notice that their parents wanted them to study.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale was the first government school teacher in Solapur to use a laptop and internet in class. He soon graduated from Hindi films to educational videos. “After a lesson on Shivaji Maharaj, I used to show them YouTube videos about him,” he said. “When I taught them about nature and environment, I picked related videos on YouTube.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale then introduced short PowerPoint presentations and audio clips of experts. He also used instruments like the harmonium to turn the poems into songs. “This added an element of creativity to the process and the children began enjoying it more,” he said. “Then, in 2013, I bought a projector and began showing them films on a bigger screen.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He then started recording videos of students talking about what they had learnt. These videos were shown to the juniors in school; he wanted to eliminate stage fright.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He began sending PowerPoint presentations and audio clips to parents’phones so that the children could study at home. Every Saturday, he met the parents for sessions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As time went on, Disale continued to innovate. In 2014, while running an errand, he saw the owner of a shop scanning a barcode. This gave him the idea to develop and paste QR codes on textbooks. “When I saw it in the shop, I didn’t even know that it was called a barcode,” he said. “I googled it and then developed 27 QR codes. Each code contained PPT presentations, audio clips and short videos related to each chapter.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This experiment became hugely popular in the district. The following year, Disale wrote to Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde proposing that QR codes be included in textbooks. The education department added the codes to class 6 textbooks as a pilot project “When the feedback was positive,” said Disale, “the government decided to add QR codes to all textbooks from classes 1 to 10.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The QR code experiment made Disale a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. He was one among 300 teachers selected globally for this honour. “I was called to Toronto to make a presentation of my experiment,” he said. “My QR codes became a unique innovation in Indian education and I got another award from the National Innovation Foundation.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale’s work not only reduced the dropout rate in Paritewadi and nearby schools, but also inspired girls to continue education. One of his former students, Sakshi Shinde, has become a software engineer in Bengaluru. This is a rarity for Paritewadi, where girls used to be married off in their teens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale took on child marriages, too. His rapport with the villagers helped him counsel them about the harms of the practice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Om Shinde, a class 6 student who was once taught by Disale, told THE WEEK: “His style is different, frank and friendly. He took us to picnics to show us what was in our textbooks. He showed us films related to our studies. My interest grew and I scored full marks in class 4.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018, Disale started another project called ‘Let’s Cross the Borders’, which involves creating a peace army of students from conflict-ridden nations. It includes students from Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, Iraq and Iran, apart from India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale was nominated for the Global Teacher Prize by his teacher friends from Japan and Vietnam. “A friend of mine from Japan, Mio Horio, had been selected in the top 50 for the Global Teacher Prize in 2019,” said Disale. “She nominated me last year.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He did not win in 2019, but was nominated again by his Vietnamese friend this year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After he made the top 10 following a rigorous interview, the foundation sent a team to his village. “They interacted with the parents and students to know more about my teaching methods and that is how I got selected for the prize,”he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disale has decided to share half of the $1 million prize money with the nine other finalists. “I take online classes for students from other countries in the evening,” he said. “I teach them about India. I feel that if I share the prize, students of these nine other teachers will also benefit from their experiments. Though I have won, it does not mean that I am the best among the 10 teachers; I am just first among equals. If I share this amount, even they will be inspired. After all, sharing is growing.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/the-madha-model.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/the-madha-model.html Fri Dec 11 11:54:51 IST 2020 management-is-india-most-successful-soft-power <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/management-is-india-most-successful-soft-power.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/12/10/58-Debashis-Chatterjee.jpg" /> <p>The Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode is celebrating its 25th year. And, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, it has been a good year. IIMK was placed 90th in the QS World University Rankings in the thought leadership category. It was rated in the A band in the ministry of human resource development's Atal Rankings of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (the first IIM to be featured). It was also declared the best inclusive incubator in Kerala at the Women Start-up Summit 2020. IIMK's director, Professor Debashis Chatterjee, spoke to THE WEEK about the institute’s vision and the innovations pioneered by it. Edited excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are some of the most significant innovations pioneered by IIMK?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IIM Kozhikode has irreversibly transformed the higher education space in India. [In 2001,] it became the first b-school in Asia to pioneer interactive learning programmes for working executives through satellite delivery systems. It is a diversity leader, bringing 54 per cent women to the flagship MBA programme in 2013 and 2020, 30 per cent women among faculty and 40 per cent women on the board of governors. IIMK is home to the first ever Indian business museum and incubated a centre of excellence for employment of the marginalised and underprivileged, now known as the CREST Foundation. It was also the first IIM to anticipate the multidisciplinary approach of the NEP (National Education Policy) 2020 and commence a two-year, full-time MBA in Liberal Studies and Management (PGP-LSM).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Could you explain the vision behind PGP-LSM?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was observed that the current workplace is largely focused on technical (hard) skills. There was a need for those more equipped with emotional and creative intelligence. The scientific method of teaching and learning was not sufficient for preparing future managers. There was a dire need for an alternative form of management education. PGP-LSM was an initiative of IIMK to equip the future manager with the earnestness to deal with fellow human beings effectively. This untapped arena is crucial to many roles in sectors like marketing, media, human resource management, social enterprise, hospitality and health care. These are roles that require a holistic perspective and diversity of thought which PGP-LSM is specifically aiming to develop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are your plans for expansion and growth?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The premise of our growth plans is that both the future and past are integral to the path taken by an institution of excellence. Having a wide, far-seeing vision is not an indulgence but an activity that is necessary to give an institution a sense of purpose, direction and imagination. That is why we have chosen to think in terms of what IIMK will be able to contribute to India and the world some two-and-a-half decades from now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What will India, management education and the world look like in 2047, the year IIMK turns 50 and India turns 100? There is no guarantee that the certainties of today will hold then. We will need new ways of thinking, new skills and a bold, positive imagination. IIMK has set for itself a pre-eminent role in ‘Globalizing Indian Thought’ (the institute's dictum). The potential impact that India can have on 21st century businesses make us believe that this is a legitimate aspiration. It is our earnest hope that our experiences and our Vision 2047 will be of inspirational value to managers and institutions who wish to contribute to the future of India and the world. We wish to play our part in the creation of a new and resurgent India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Why the focus on Indian thought?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When we talk about India's soft power, we talk about yoga and Indian cinema. Management is India's most successful soft power. Most people do not realise that. We have sent out our managers who are now heading companies like IBM and Google. What makes it possible for our managers to do so well? It is the deep orientation to values in India; wealth creation is sacred and legitimate here. A way to express Indian soft power is to provide a management education that is rooted deeply in not just the symbolism, but the actuality of what it means to be an Indian. We want to maximise India's clout and reclaim thought leadership.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is stopping our b-schools from being perceived as the world's best?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is definitely huge potential among India’s higher education institutions to be visible and accountable internationally. And, they have been making steady inroads into the global ranking framework. However, in order to truly achieve their global potential, IIMs should be allowed a greater degree of freedom in attracting foreign students. This will override the current systemic problems and lead us to a path of global recognition.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How would you respond to the suggestion that the IIM Act gives IIMs an "unfair" advantage over private b-schools?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IIMs as institutions of national importance have a significant role to play in higher education. The primary mandate of IIMs’ quest for autonomy, which has been granted by the Act, is academic freedom and power to direct its resources in a way that supports and sustains our vision for India’s future. The Act has empowered IIMs to make quality interventions and also [be] vehicles of social change by implementing government mandated reservations, which other top b-schools usually shy away from. The fear that the value of their diplomas will suffer is unfounded. If anything, this is an opportunity for other institutions to innovate and contribute to society in terms of creating a healthy, diverse and gender-positive ecosystem. Some private b-schools have been granted graded autonomy, so it is a level playing field now.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/management-is-india-most-successful-soft-power.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/10/management-is-india-most-successful-soft-power.html Fri Dec 11 11:40:24 IST 2020 on-fury-road <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/03/on-fury-road.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/12/3/36-farmer.jpg" /> <p>Mohinder Singh’s enthusiasm belies his age. His weather-beaten face speaks of the struggles he has gone through—from surviving crop failure to participating in various movements Punjab has seen over the decades. This one, he hopes to win.</p> <p>The 78-year-old farmer from Punjab’s Fatehgarh Sahib district is camping near the Singhu border, Delhi’s main gateway to Haryana and Punjab. He wants the Union government to withdraw the three agriculture reform laws it had passed in September. “The Central government wants to take away our land and destroy us. The laws must be withdrawn,” said Singh, as he sat with his friends near a tractor trolley, peeling garlic cloves for an evening meal.</p> <p>On both sides of the six-lane Grand Trunk Road are seemingly endless rows of tractors and trolleys blocking the Singhu border. For every five tractors, there is a trolley full of ration and essential supplies. The farmers have set up makeshift street-kitchens for anyone who cares to join them. Delhi’s powerful gurdwara body has pitched in with its own <i>langar</i> (community kitchen), and so have other organisations like Khalsa Aid. People from Haryana are supplying bottled water, milk, gas cylinders, mattresses and blankets.</p> <p>The scene resembles a mini city built by a caravan of migrants, or an army division waiting for its next order. The farmers have already travelled more than 300km, crossing barriers put up by the police in Haryana and Delhi, and braving tear gas and water cannons. The Punjab peasantry’s cultural history of resistance against those in power in Delhi has provided energy to the movement.</p> <p>Also, they are in it for the long haul. If the negotiations fail, they are well-prepared to ride out Delhi’s harsh winter. The line of protesters runs up to 10km by some accounts, and is growing by the day as farmers from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh join in. Parallels can be drawn to the farmer agitation in 1988, when Mahendra Singh Tikait of Uttar Pradesh led protesters to the India Gate lawns.</p> <p>As the first round of talks failed to make headway, the siege of Delhi spread to other border points. The government’s offer to allow farmers to protest from the Nirankari grounds in Delhi was a faux pas. The farmers are predominantly Jat Sikhs who in the past have had a long and violent feud with the Nirankari sect, an offshoot of Sikhism that installed a living guru as its chief. The farmers refused to go there saying it will be an open jail, and stayed put at the border instead.</p> <p>“We have already lighted <i>diyas</i> during Diwali, wished our families goodbye. They said, ‘We will wait for you, but more important is that you return victorious. For the cause, even if you don’t return, we will accept that,’” said Jaskaran Singh of Faridkot, overcome with emotion. Singh’s sentiment is shared by fellow protesters as they continue to gather at Delhi’s doorsteps.</p> <p>The Union government will find it hard to wish the anger away. Last December, protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act began gathering momentum. As Shaheen Bagh model gatherings spread across the country, the Union government, and states where the BJP was in power, cracked down on the protesters. But it was the Covid-19 pandemic that dealt a severe blow to the anti-CAA protests. As farmers are a far more politically sensitive constituency, and the lockdown having ended, the Union government would find it hard to deal with the protesters.</p> <p>At heart of the issue is the government’s decision to introduce three key legislations that demolish socialist-era structures built when food security was a major concern. Before the reforms, farmers could sell their produce only through agriculture produce market committees (APMCs). Farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh sold paddy and wheat through APMC <i>mandis</i> to get the government-approved minimum support price. The new laws allow farmers to sell their produce outside <i>mandis</i> to anyone, anywhere and anytime. “This will enable farmers to get a price for their produce that is higher than the MSP, thus helping farmers double their income,” said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar.</p> <p>The other two laws—on contract farming and amending the Essential Commodities Act—were to facilitate the entry of corporate players in the farm sector to generate growth and employment. These moves made farmers anxious, especially in Punjab, where rabi and kharif crops sold outside the APMC <i>mandis</i> fetched lower prices. Also, a 2015 report had recommended that the government scale down procurement and replace the public distribution system with cash transfers. This would mean lesser procurement by the Food Corporation of India, thus removing the cushion of assured MSP for farmers.</p> <p>“The MSP for paddy is Rs1,888 per quintal,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in Rajewal, Punjab. “But in Bihar, where APMC mandis are not there, it is getting sold below Rs900. The same lot is being sold in Punjab for Rs1,000. This amply shows that if the government exits [the procurement process], farmers will not get an assured price. In the case of maize, the MSP is Rs1,800; but we don’t get more than Rs800 as the government does not buy [enough]. We don’t get value for our lentils. We import lentils and oil at a huge cost, but the government is not ready to pay us.”</p> <p>Rajewal and 30 other farmer leaders from Punjab met Tomar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal to find a solution. But the government, which had initially dismissed the agitation as being limited to the Congress-ruled Punjab, seems determined to implement the laws, even though farmers in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have joined in the protests. Sources said the laws would not be withdrawn, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly stressed its far-reaching impact and described the protests as misguided.</p> <p>The government’s plan is to deal with farmer groups from different regions separately, and try to pin down the grievances limited to that region. Tomar is trying to strike a deal by assuring farmers that MSP would stay. Farmers, however, are adamant on a written assurance.</p> <p>“The MSP was enforced through an administrative order, and not a law, since 1965. Then why the need for a legal provision now?” asked Iqbal Singh Lalpura, BJP’s newly appointed national spokesperson and the first Sikh to be elevated to the post. “The farmers were made apprehensive by vested political interests. The apprehension is that something bad can happen in the future. They are going by a false narrative.”</p> <p>Lalpura said the agitation was a political movement supported by farmers. “The issue was taken up by the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab for their political gains. Farmers joined them later. They [political parties] misguided the farmers. The prime minister and agriculture minister assured on the floor of [Parliament] that the MSP will stay.”</p> <p>The Congress, the SAD and the Aam Aadmi Party, which have stakes in Punjab, have supported the agitation, but the protesters have not allowed politicians to occupy their platform. The BJP government in Haryana is facing heat as Jats, who did not vote for the party in the last elections, are restless. The khap panchyats in the state have pledged support to their “elder brothers”, the Punjabi farmers. Along with them, moving in to block Delhi’s other border points are farmers from Haryana and UP, led by Tikait’s son Rakesh Tikait. It will need deft handling on the part of the Centre to arrive at a solution.</p> <p>“No political party will be allowed to speak from our stage,” said Jagmohan Singh, BKU general secretary in Dakaunda, Punjab. “Here, party divisions have ceased to exist, as people from all over have joined in this struggle. Our demand is that the government withdraw the three laws, propose [a new] electricity bill, and make references to the agriculture sector in the pollution guidelines.”</p> <p>What has made this protest politically potent is the attention and support it is drawing from Punjab, particularly from the Sikh community. Punjab’s farmers are mostly Jat Sikhs who have presence in governance structures and the armed forces. They are receiving support from Punjabi artists, sportspersons and personalities, who have huge followings. This has made the agitation a community struggle, with the Punjabi diaspora pitching in with emotional and material support.</p> <p>Sensing the polarisation, the government has begun crisis management. A 44-page booklet, titled ‘PM Modi and his government’s special relationship with Sikhs’, was released listing the steps taken since Modi’s days as Gujarat chief minister—removing taxes on langars, opening of the Kartarpur corridor, building infrastructure for Sikh shrines, and ensuring justice for the victims of the 1984 riots.</p> <p>Many BJP leaders say radical elements have infiltrated the agitation, but protesters deny it. “Youths here are holding placards saying that we are farmers, and not terrorists,” said Jagjit Singh Dalewal, general secretary of BKU in Sidhupur. “The BJP earlier said it is only a Punjab-centric movement, but now you see farmers from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Kerala. It is a nationwide movement.”</p> <p>The non-violent nature of the agitation has attracted a great deal of attention. “Our youth are naturally aggressive, but this is the first time they understood that if this battle has to be won, they have to stay non-violent,” said Rajewal. “That if they turned violent, the movement will fail. There was lathi-charge, water cannon and tear gas, yet the people remained non-violent.”</p> <p>Activist Medha Patkar, who visited the Singhu border, said the mass mobilisation was unprecedented. “Generally, when issues related to agriculture are raised, there is a division between farmers as landowners and land labourers,” she said. “But here is the widest possible unity, as it has brought everyone together. They are going to test the Modi government.”</p> <p>Shiv Kumar Kakka, farmer leader from Madhya Pradesh, said the government should cede to the demands. “In the last six and a half years, the Modi government has brought 18 laws against farmers, and 32 laws against workers. All these acts make sure that one cannot move the courts. The prime minister should have a big heart and agree to all the demands of the farmers.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/03/on-fury-road.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/12/03/on-fury-road.html Thu Dec 03 18:18:00 IST 2020