The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), the farmer organisation which is at the forefront of the ongoing farmer protests seems to be making a complete U-turn so far as their demands regarding the farm laws are concerned. The BKU has been opposing the new farm laws introduced by the central government by alleging that the new laws were not meant for the benefit of farmers. The new farm laws, inter alia, liberate the farmers from the clutches of middlemen (Arhityas) and allow them to sell the produce to the buyer of their choice outside the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committees Act) markets at fair prices.
Strangely, the ‘farmer groups’ protesting against the new farm laws have recently been praising the old system that included middlemen and demanding the old system to be restored claiming that it was the ‘best’. Asking the government to define ‘middlemen’, the protesting farmer groups had said that whom the government called ‘middlemen’ were mere service providers who just charged a commission for providing services like unloading trolleys for farmers. However, this is in complete contradiction to the demands raised by the farmer groups last year.
In 2019, the BKU had supported the then Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, late Ram Vilas Paswan after he demanded Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to do away with Arhitya system and ensure direct payment to farmers as is provided under the new farm laws. The farmers’ union had welcomed the demand for eliminating commission agents who burdened farmers with huge debts and the decision to introduce direct online transactions. Strangely, farmer groups from Punjab are now seen demanding that the reforms must be taken back and the old system of ‘middlemen’ be restored. The same BKU has been now hailing Punjab CM Amarinder Singh for ‘rejecting’ the new farm laws that have provisions to free farmers from the clutches of middlemen.
Last year’s manifesto had asked for the abolition of APMCs, and Essential Commodities Act
Further, the BKU manifesto of 2019 prepared by All India Kisan Coordination Committee contained the same things as are provided by the new agricultural laws. One of the demands mentioned under twelve broad points in the manifesto was to abolish the APMC Act and the Essential Commodities Act for “enabling commerce and trade”. The BKU also demanded for abolition of the ninth schedule from the Constitution of India for the protection of the fundamental rights of the farmers. The manifesto also mentioned demands for freedom to sell, rent and lease farm land, better rural infrastructure, trade in future commodities and so on.
However, when the current farm laws made provisions ending the monopoly of APMCs, offering farmers the freedom to sell their produce anywhere, made the necessary amendments to the Essential Commodities Act, gives farmers the freedom to buy and sell from anywhere, and also enable farmers to get a fair price for their produce with several provisions, it is surprising to see the BKU resisting these reforms and taking a 180 degrees turn on what they themselves have been demanding so far.
Fear-mongering around farm laws
Ever since the central government introduced the new farm laws, there have been constant attempts by opposition parties to spread misinformation among farmers about the laws. The three bills carrying Prime Minister Modi’s vision of ‘One India One Agriculture Market’ aim to empower farmer by providing a farmer-friendly mechanism. The ongoing protests being held in the name of farmers are being used by anti-national elements like pro-Khalistani voices and separatist groups to create mayhem.