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First survey of farmers after Modi govt’s 3 farm laws is bad news for the BJP

The Gaon Connection survey suggests that the govt and media would live in denial if they see farmers’ protests as a rebellion of the entitled.

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Is farming profitable?” Now, take a guess: from which part of India do you expect to hear a ‘yes’ to this question? I bet you would say, Punjab and Haryana, followed by Maharashtra and other western states. South might come after that. And you would expect to hear a loud ‘no’ from eastern India and, of course, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

You are wrong. In the first week of this month, Gaon Connection asked this question to 5,022 farmers across 54 districts in 16 states and got very surprising results. Northwest India, comprising Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh in this survey, was the only region to return a negative verdict: 53 per cent said farming was not profitable, compared to 40 per cent who said it was. Western India was more or less split (44 per cent no to 50 per cent yes), followed by the South and the East. Farmers from UP and Bihar gave the most positive answer: 63 per cent said farming was profitable to just 23 per cent who said it was not.

Your first reaction would be to question the survey itself. I checked its methodology and spoke to the team. This survey may not meet the highest standard of random sampling and social scientific protocols of fieldwork, but its sample is large and fairly representative in terms of regions, castes and landholding. The questions are neutral and seem to be administered reasonably well. After decades of looking at survey data, I can say that the broad conclusions of this first nation-wide survey on the Narendra Modi government’s three farm legislations can be trusted.


Also read: Farmers and labourers over a privileged few – India is finally going the right way


Most farmers are unhappy

Actually, this seemingly odd finding holds the key to understanding the mood of the Indian farmers captured by this survey. Farmers who are relatively better off are also more unhappy about their lot, more anxious about their future and angrier about the latest farm acts passed by the Modi government. Farmers across India have a sense that something big and possibly bad is on the way, something they don’t fully comprehend. They also know that farmers are angry and protesting in many parts of the country. But their own response varies. Farmers in the Northwest are angry, those in the West are anxious, those in the south are unsure, those in the East are placid and their counterparts in UP and Bihar are oblivious to everything.

The farmers’ level of awareness about the laws and farmers’ protests surprised me. As many as two-thirds of the farmers (as many as 91 per cent in Punjab and Haryana) know that farmers are protesting in the country. When asked why, nearly half of them can say that they are protesting against the new farm laws. Quite impressive, I thought. Even more impressive is that two-thirds have heard about the new farm laws (82 per cent in Northwest, but only 48 per cent in the East), even though the awareness of each of the laws is much lower and most of them may not be able to say what these laws are about. Interestingly, WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube contribute about as much to the farmers’ awareness as TV or newspapers.

The bad news for the government is that the farm laws are getting a bad name among the farmers. When asked whether they are in favour or against these laws, the verdict is negative: 52 per cent against and 35 per cent in favour. To be sure, more than half of the defenders and opponents don’t really know the details of these laws. And, as expected, the responses are uneven across geographical and class divides. Yet, this general negative impression is what matters in politics.


Also read: Punjab assembly passes bills negating Centre’s farm laws, now awaits President’s assent


Farmers speak up

The survey shows that the farmers’ reservations against these laws are driven by three real anxieties. One, they fear that the existing mandi system may be dismantled. Nationally, about 39 per cent farmers share this anxiety, while 28 per cent don’t, and one-third don’t have an opinion on it. Two, about the same proportion of farmers fear that the government system of procurement of some crops at a minimum support price (MSP) will come to an end. Three, there is a stronger fear (46 per cent yes to 23 per cent no) that these laws will open the way for exploitation of the farmers by big companies. All the three fears are likely to be accentuated as the Congress governments begin enacting state laws against these central laws. These state legislations may never come into force, because the President is unlikely to assent, but these can play a major role in shaping public opinion.

The survey underlines one undisputed aspiration and demand of the farmers: guaranteed MSP for farm produce. When asked whether MSP should be mandated by law, the response is a resounding yes: 59 per cent farmers vote for it while 16 per cent are against it. Obviously, the support is higher (81 per cent in the Northeast, 80 per cent in the West) in areas that have a functioning system of procurement and among those farmers who sell their crop for MSP. But the votaries of MSP outnumber the sceptics even among farmers and regions that don’t currently benefit from government procurement. No wonder, BJP leaders find it very hard to respond to farmers on this specific demand. Their task is harder after the laws passed by the Punjab assembly.

The bad news for the opposition is that despite clear and growing resentment against these three laws, the Modi government is still not seen to be “anti-farmer”. Those who say so are 28 per cent, against 44 per cent who still think it is “pro-farmer”. The only exception is, again, Haryana and Punjab. But when the same question was framed differently, there was a subtle shift. When farmers were asked to name the group the Modi government cares most for, 35 per cent said it cared most for the farmers, while 45 per cent said the Modi government cares most for the traders, corporates and MNCs. Another wave of farmers’ movement and the Modi government could well earn the tag of being “anti-farmer”.


Also read: Farmers in Sirsa have a message for Modi govt — Get ready for a winter of discontent


The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), the largest coalition of farmer organisations in the country, has given a call for “Dilli Chalo” on 26 and 27 November [Disclosure: the author is a member of its apex working group]. Before this street-battle takes place, the next one month will witness a battle for farmers’ minds.

The government and a section of the media would live in denial if they see and present it as a rebellion of the entitled. The opposition and farm activists would indulge in a wishful fancy if they interpret it as a revolution of the enlightened vanguard. As of now, it is no more, and no less, than an outcry of the enabled, of those who have what it takes to stand up and speak up. Such an outcry tends to percolate. If so, the Modi government is on a losing wicket.

The author is the national president of Swaraj India. Views are personal.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Modi couldn’t STOP the ENTITLED RATIONS of the ARMED FORCES. Now he is talking a gamble by drying up the food in farmers kitchens. How cheap can he get ?
    He must remember that the ARMED FORCES are disciplined and educated. The FARMERS are not !

  2. I don’t understand why some of the farmers so frightened about the three laws enacted by the Govt. It is well known fact that only 6%of the farmers getting MSP. The rest of the farmers ie 94% are not getting MSP and they are forced to sell their produce to private traders. Only 35% of the total production is being marketed through APMC mandis and the remaining 65% produce is being marketed through village level commission agents. If this type of situation is prevailing in rural areas what is the wrong in enacting pro farmers acts by the Govt.

  3. So it is clear from the survey that even those who are against just have some apprehension, not anything concrete. Going forward as things will unfold people will realise most of it is just fear mongering by the opposition and this protest will loose traction.

  4. its so called experts like this author, dynasties, lutyen, jnu, leftists held industries, farmers backward and poor for 60 plus years. they want farmers to remain poor on freebies for vote bank. even if one does implement the best law in the whole world, at least 50 percent people and experts oppose it. it is beyond ridiculous when people say, they do not know new laws and yet they oppose them. who can make their life better ?

  5. This is what Yogendra Yadav doesnt understand. Had Modi wasted his time on pampering everyone and dancing to their tunes he would have been a status quoist. No leader worth his salt will be ever wanted to be seen like that. Brave and assertive leaders take firm steps which are in the interest of the country, its downtrodden, its marginalised, its farmers etc. They dont pander to the whims and fancies of pressure groups, middlemen. They dont play safe in their own comfort zones. Already news is coming from Maharashtra that some farmers have been contacted by the big companies to pick up their produce. All without middlemen. This is a win win situation. 5hosr who care only for the next election result join the congress while those think from long term perspective are part of Modi’s team. This is the difference which is beyond the comprehension of people like Yadav with limited vision.

  6. Every living organism develops defense mechanism when its existence is threatened by a life threatening virus, bacteria , or fungus. So is the case with human orgnisations or societies formed by the human . The Hindus , — the oldest human orgnisation or entity -is clearly envisaging a threat to its very existence from the Jihadi and terrorists organisations. So it is but natural for Hindu Majority in to develop its defenses and The Hindu Right seems to be only CHOICE. Today some 40-45% of Hindus have veered round to this view , TOMORROW , When threat perception increases , it may go to 80-90% of the Hindus voting for The Hindu Right –irrespective of the name of the party. ( Imean to say ,not necessary BJP , it could be even a Indian National Hindu Congress. ) IF Hindus have to survive they have to develop its own defense mechanism.

  7. When marketing opportunities are being expanded for farmers, one fails to understand how it is going to harm the farming community ? Do leftist and JNU wala, jholawalas think that all wisdom lies in their tiny heads ? There are many countries and societies on this planet , how many of them have system of state sponsored MSP ? If farm product need support from Government in pricing of their products , Why Industry should be deprived of the privilege of ASSURED PRICES ? They too employ a large portion of population , They too make big investments in plant and machinery, technology ,Capital . They develop the market for their products on its own . Leftist opposed Reforms of Indian economy in 1991 also , when Narsimha Rao Government had thrown the Nehruvian Regimes polices in dustbin and embarked upon ECONOMIC REFORMS to bring India out of Nehruvian DYNASTIC Model of poverty perpetuation by doing away with LICENCE-QUOTA-PERMIT RAJ. But they should keep in mind History, Economy and FATE of NATIONS have its own way of moving. Modi is not Economic Reformer in strict sense. But BE ASSURED , he will be followed by a ULTRA-RIGHT Reformer. Till then person like YY should support Modi as his successor may bring more heartburn for leftists.

  8. यह सब विरोध करने वाले अवसर की तलाश में थे ओर उनको बहाना मिल गया। सब के सब ऊंची जाति के privilged class जट हैं जो दलितों को पास फटकने भी नही देते ओर उनको गरीब जनता कह कर पुकारते है। जिन्होंने दलितों के लिए अलग गुरुद्वारा अलग श्मशान, अलग धर्मशाला ,अलग मोहल्ला जिसे वेहढ़ा भी कहते।
    दलित सोसायटीओ की ज़मीन पर कब्जा करने वाले जट आज पीड़ित हो गए। वाह रे दोगले टुकड़े टुकड़े गैंग

  9. LOL, fakery galore by a fraudster. Guys like this writer want the farmers to remain at the mercy of political forces at the altar of their discredited ideology or worse, their personal ambitions. They are trying desperately to make an issue out of a non-issue. Good luck, your days in public life are numbered; you will become irrelevant very soon.

    • I am a farmer and i want msp and if i am wrong for seeking the best return on my investment, then why is it the city dwellers such as yourself whine so much that your are paying so much for your electricity bill.

  10. Yogendra Yadav May try everything in his book , Indian formers believe more in Modi then a communist who changed his name from Salem to Yogendra Yadav , I expect Shekhar Guptha another Muslim appeaser not to delete my comment.

    • No we dont belive in modi. He is not trust worthy and if you got your 15 lakhs. Please tell me otherwise.

  11. And yet there is no MSP for vegetables, fruits and tea and coffee, jute, rubber and many more. If the system of MSP was gold standard, one wonders why these are not included?

  12. Can any section of the society hold it’s people to ransom just on fears of what MAY happen In the process allowing vested interests to further stoke the fears.
    Just asking

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