Maharashtra farmers
File photo | Farmers plant cotton seedlings in Nagpur | ANI File Photo
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A historic farmers’ movement is a moment to unveil a vision for the future. Not just for farmers or agriculture, but for rural India, and indeed for the future of India.

This movement has already created history. It has firmly brought back the farmers to the national imagination. You can’t pretend they don’t exist. It has put the fear of vote, more effective than the fear of God, in the mind of the political class. You don’t take panga with farmers. It has shut up market fundamentalists who whisper too-clever-by-half agri-reform recipes to the powers that be. No more corporate plugs masquerading as textbook economics pushing for “reform by stealth”. At least for some time. It has succeeded in pushing the envelope to where years of academic and political debates on agriculture could not.

Yet, it will be a pity if that is all this movement achieves in terms of imagination. It will be tragic if the successful halting of the “agri reform” onslaught becomes a pretext to perpetuate status quo. It will be sad if this pushback to corporate agri-business turns into a push for trade unionism of the better-off farmer. The imposition of the Narendra Modi government’s farm laws must serve to draw attention to the multiple crises faced by Indian farmers, farming and agriculture. These laws are not the starting point of the woes of the farmers. Nor is their repeal the panacea that the farmers need. This great movement must take forward the idea of India that places farmers at the heart of our future.

Indian agriculture faces three intertwined crises. While the current focus is, rightly so, on the economic crisis, we cannot afford to forget the ecological crisis that stares us in the face. Both these crises put together produce what the farmers experience as an existential crisis. Indian farmers need nothing short of a New Deal that addresses these three crises simultaneously. Ideas, policies and politics must come together to design this New Deal.


Also read: Every soldier is a farmer in uniform. Insulting protesters will hurt those at borders too


Three crises of Indian agriculture

The economic crisis is easy to describe. Although nearly half of our working population (58 per cent of rural households) is mainly engaged in agriculture, farming is not economically viable. Landholdings are small: 86 per cent of farmers own less than 2 acres, based on the agriculture census 2015-16. Average yield is low and highly uncertain. Prices are low too and are kept systematically so. According to my calculations, this yields a meagre monthly income of less than Rs 8,000, including all sources of income. The number of agricultural wage labourers has kept swelling, though farm wages have remained stagnant. No wonder, average monthly consumption is higher than income. More than half of farm families are in debt.

Now, the lazy economists’ formula is to say reduce the population dependent on agriculture. Except they forget to mention the continent where this additional population should be transported. Or to specify sectors of our economy waiting to offer millions of additional jobs, notwithstanding the overall state of joblessness. The challenge is to find decent income for hard-working small farmers.

The ecological crisis is less easily noticed and is even more pressing. Green revolution has come to a dead-end. Superstitious belief in the magic of chemical agriculture and overexploitation of water has left us exposed to degradation of soil health and groundwater depletion at a frightening scale. Add to this loss of biodiversity, shrinkage in seed variety, decline in nutria-crops like millets, loss in livestock economy and deforestation, and you begin to see why ecological crisis is not a hobby horse of some fringe environmentalists.

And now think of the looming challenge of climate change. Soaring temperatures and uncertain monsoon is a recipe for disaster for Indian agriculture, especially for farmers dependent on rains. Incomes of these ‘dryland’ farmers are predicted to fall by as much as a quarter due to climate change. Ecologically sustainable agriculture is a material and pressing concern that we should have addressed yesterday.

Finally, there is the existential crisis that the farmers feel and react to. The oft-repeated story of farmer suicides, over 3 lakh in the last two decades. As agriculture shrinks in the national economy, farmers experience a diminution in their status and a loss of dignity. As the self-respecting cultivator, the farmer is forced to become a labourer, and soon, a migrant labourer. Farmers do not want their next generation to take to farming.


Also read: Farmers’ protests are the birth pangs of a more urbanised India


A new architecture

The challenge and the opportunity of the farmers’ movement today is not just to ward off the impending threat of the three laws or to secure some enduring economic gains for the farmers, but to come up with a way forward on the economic, ecological and existential crises that Indian agriculture faces.

It requires, above all, an imaginative leap. Indian leaders, policymakers and thinkers must be able to stand up and say: India is not condemned to relive European history. Indian agriculture will follow an Indian path. Indian farmers are not vestiges of the past. They are here to stay. Agriculture can and will provide dignified livelihood to a substantial population, many times more than it does in Europe or North America. Indian farmers are a repository of relevant knowledge and technology. Village India is not a dustbin of history. Rural India is a land of opportunities, and key to our national future.

This resolve, an article of faith if you will, can open the path for new policy architecture. This will have to be led by the government and backed by a substantially bigger budget. Some of this State support must take the form of higher and more efficient subsidies to the farmers, as our net subsidy so far has been low, if not negative. Some of these resources must be spent on a truly universal and comprehensive crop insurance as well as debt relief and reconstruction. But much of State support must go towards building agricultural and rural infrastructure that facilitates private entrepreneurship, agro-processing, farmers’ cooperatives, animal husbandry, forestry, and so on. Flourishing private initiative in agriculture needs more, not less, State support and initiative.


Also read: Time for Modi to play the elder statesman and repeal the farm laws


The design of this new architecture will be around a combination of income support with ecologically appropriate agriculture. The current focus of government procurement on wheat and paddy creates perverse incentives for farmers. Instead, farmers need to be offered price support for a wide range of produce on the condition that they adopt the crops that are suitable for local ecological conditions. Crop loan and crop insurance could be added to this mega scheme. A small top-up component of income support for small farmers, women farmers and other vulnerable farmers could be included in this package. And this will have to be linked to a boost for pastoralists, rural industry and handicrafts, etc. The future of agriculture must be integrated with a big push for decentralised reinvigoration of rural economy.

Will this cost a lot of money? Yes, at current price, we should be looking to spend additional Rs 3-4 lakh crore, around 10 per cent of the Union budget, for this New Deal for rural India.

Can the country afford it? Should this be our national focus? Well, that is a question of political will. The real measure of the success of the current farmers’ movement would be the extent to which it succeeds in creating this much-needed political will.

Yogendra Yadav is the national president of Swaraj India. Views are personal.

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39 Comments Share Your Views

39 COMMENTS

  1. Looks like our country will never be a super power as we will never be able to handle our noisy democracy. Idiot Tikait was initially happy till he came under the influence of his cash rich Punjab handlers. He now talks like a goon. Media should not glorify these misguided elements who do not want to discuss the laws with govt except one point agenda “Repeal the Laws”. If farmers were not backed by opportunist Opposition ( lead by cong), cash rich NRIs and trouble maker Leftist unions they would have sat down with govt and reached a win-win agreement. As their expenses at Delhi border sit- ins are being covered by above mentioned villains they see no reason to budge as of now. How can govt give guaranteed MSP on unlimited , unplanned agreculture produce, from where will the money come ?

  2. Indian socialism has turned our Government employees into beggars asking for baksheesh or bandits demanding a ransom just to do their jobs.

    Add to that millions of mouths that are feeding off the Government teats who are terrified of being forced to fend for themselves like everyone else. This is not an India of lion-hearted entrepreneurs but of a combination of beggars and bandits demanding that their livelihoods be subsidised indefinitely.

    It is good that the Modi Government is standing resolutely against these demands. These laws and the Article 370 abrogation are the two most important things that ANY Government in India has had the courage to do, and they should be backed solidly in that.

  3. Does Yogendra Yadav even know what he is talking about? Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal which he references, is remembered as a disaster in central planning by everyone including both farmers who lived through those years, and economists including in the Bluest of the Blue states of the US. Decades ago when I was a student in ultra progressive Illinois, we talked to older people who had lived through FDR’s version of China’s even worse Great Leap Forward. No one had a good word to say about that period and its horrors. America is good at hiding its worst actions as a nation and the New Deal is not even remembered by the Democrats who pushed for it in the past these days – apart from crackpots like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and a few others.

    India’s farmers need vocational education and 4-H type programs to help young people in rural communities learn to innovate and improve farming methods and technologies as they grow up. And, India has a strong record as far as education is concerned. When engineers were needed, the country went into overdrive and it now produces them in large numbers. It can do the same for agriculture, with two year degrees / 6 month certificate programs etc. Yes, investment is needed in setting up rural infrastructure – training centers, good schools, rural hospitals, veterinary infrastructure, better monitoring of crops under cultivation, improved storage, better road and rail transport linkages to markets and more. A new agricultural quota raj New Deal style is the last thing required. A socialist will always remain a socialist. And this means that he is bound to be a pathological liar and an utter doofus combined, with his COmrades chanting “Kya baat ki aap ney, Yadav Ji, gazab ki baat hai!” including when he coughs or sneezes.

  4. YoYa You are a bigger idiot than I assumed you to be. You and the entire world know you have no mass support. You can’t win an election on your own. You have nothing do with the Farmers welfare. It is only a sham. You know very well that you can’t get the support of ten persons if you launch an agitation. You are least bothered about the cause. What you need are some shoulders to show your visibility. Any agitation is good enough for you if a minuscule population raises an issue and gathers together. You will love to clutch to their frocks be it Shahin Baug, JNU frustrated lot or farmers. You have only revealed your pathological hatred for Modi, but it does not surprise us. You wanted no logical debate on the Farmers Issue point by point, section by section. Because obviously, that would expose you and your clan. So we the citizens of India could see through your one-line demand – Repeal the Act. And when the agitation has been hijacked by the anti-India forces, as is your penchant, you are hiding in your rathole under some pretext. Now the last word – whatever you do, you are not going to be a part of the glorious history of India.

  5. Rural India can’t be dustbin of history. -Speaks the head-line . But NO ONE can stop them on degenerating on such path thanks to leaders like YY and invisible SPARE HANDS of faceless leaders . Now onwards more farmers will be committing suicides , even in Rich Farm lands of North-west India also as they have been deceived in accepting the leadership of anti-human leftists who killed millions of farmers in the different parts of the world – specially under the leadership of Stalin , Mao, Kim ul Sung, Pol Pot. etc. . They may be dreaming of doing so in India also. During last 60-70 years the farmers in North-west of India prospered and started living like their counterparts in the west . But this is/was not acceptable to leftists who always wants a big chunk of the poor people to lord over them. To achieve their cherish agenda leftists are misleading the farmers and striving hard to create conditions of anarchy . The so-called farmers agitation in India started and synchronized with Chinese movements on the northern borders of India. one thing more , Now with Chinese and Indian troops being in the process of dis-engagement . Here too ,withdrawal of agitators amassed on the border of NCT of Delhi is over-due. Actual Farmers who are engaged in various agricultural activities in their farms needs to be educated about that . Providing media space to likes of YY in media platform is doing disservice to the nation and will ruin peace, prosperity and growth momentum of the NATION.

  6. Who’s interests is YY representing here? The poor farmer? If as he says, the farmers are in a existential crisis & in a unsustainable farming model? Should’nt we move to a new system where they have more choice or do we continue with a old system where so many farmers are in debt or have committed suicide?

    ”Flourishing private initiative in agriculture needs more, not less, State support and initiative.” Is he kidding? Isnt this what modi is trying to do? Also where has the private sector flourished/invested with govt breathing down their necks? The govt has to enable investments, provide some protecting regulations to ensure the farmers arent cheated etc, pvt players operate fairly etc..

    One point I do agree with is, Indian economy & politicians until now have not created the kind of mass manufacturing jobs that China has where farmers could move to..

    Yogendra Yadav is the one of the worst bad faith actors i’ve seen & Modi rightly described his ilk as ‘andolanjeevi’.. Their only objective seems to be oppose & not suggest anything constructive!

    The farmers will stay Mr. Yadav, it’s you who will be consigned to the dustbin of history as a luddite!

  7. A nothing piece.
    As is the wont all matters can be convoluted by the sleight of the pen, as has been done throughout the history of mankind , especially in India, in recording the history.
    Indians can’t afford to grow with low self-esteem with no confidence in its leaders as projected by some activists. It is essential to infuse confidence in our younger generation., dissident voices notwithstanding. Aatmanirbar (self-sufficiency) and reforms are ways of saying we can do it.
    Tail piece: An “activist” is not beyond reproach. All “activists” are usually propelled by some actuators for own agenda. If all the farmers in India were really being treated in a poor manner, rest assured the whole Nation would have rallied behind them.
    It is MY country as well.

  8. Brilliant! Hits the nail bang on the head!!

    This is exactly what double-trouble dont understand. When trouble says look, the MSP is still there. That the mandis are still there! Or when double says, look they’re Khalistanis, they’re violent!! They don’t get the fact that the farmers are not okay with the present system. And they’re convinced that the farm laws will make it worse. They’ve accepted the fact that ache din won’t come. But when they’ve realised that what they thought was the bure din is actually going to get worse, they’ve come out on the street. And the fact that the laws have actually been sold as farm laws has pissed them off big time. They feel it should be called the traders laws or the corporate laws, because double trouble have tilted the scales against them. You can’t say that the DM will rule on any dispute under these laws, and expect the farmers to believe that iradhe sahi he!!

    Double trouble have not yet realized that their go-to polarization will not work. Because every Indian knows that farmers are suffering. Every Indian knows at least someone who lives off agriculture. And most Indians dream of owning farmland when they retire to do some ‘peaceful’ farming.

    The author rightly talks about a bottom-up approach. Where the foundations of our nation are strengthened. Where the potential for inflation is absorbed by the government. And facilities are created, or at least its creation supported and subsidized by the government.

    It’s a sacrifice every Indian is ready to make!

  9. Yadav’s doomed effort to save the vanishing Indian farmer is admirable. But if Yadav really wants to save the farmer then he needs to tell the farmer how to process their products and market them well. But for doing so he will have to get out of politics and start doing something constructive.

  10. Andolan Jeevi – Mr. Yogendra Yadav.
    The man hardly understands any issue but is a part of all sorts of “protests”. Gets counted as an “intellectual” just because he is articulate in both Hindi and English.

  11. Jan 26th was a blow to your credibility. Now with this article your credibility stands completely in ashes. If you still want to be back in decent standing, have the guts to come out clean, accept your mistakes. And most importantly stop opposing just for the sake of it – for that we have lot of political parties and their leaders.

  12. I will leave the article as an academic theory of Mr. Yogendra Yadav, irrespective of the pros and cons of the existing farm laws. I will leave this as his opinion or theory. But I will focus on what the author mentioned in the last paragraphs, where the author says,

    “Can the country afford it? Should this be our national focus? Well, that is a question of political will.”

    That is exactly what the Modi government is doing, showing the political will in doing the farm reforms. They know that there will be agitations to roll back or repeal the laws. But so far they have refused to do so. They might lose Punjab this election may be get some setbacks in Haryana but they know that these reforms are good for the country and will implement irrespective of the political loss. As a largest party in India with many State Governments under them, with many MP’s and MLA’s from rural constituencies, they will get constant feedback and what is working and what is not working. They will not make decisions based on few opiniated articles from vested intrest.

    • Yes, just like NoteBandi was a master stroke. And Useless Lockdowns, which nobody seems to follow now. No mask even in sabji mandis. And yet the positive cases are declining. If 2-3 cases in end of 2019 could lead to this chaotic pandemic then how to explain the decreasing active cases tally with much more already active case base in current. Because this incompetent govt. has clearly hyped up the fear and overlooked Indian people’s immune system. Those who were saying that countries with negligible curbs and restrictions will fare better in the end are proven right every single day. Copy pasting west in only foolish things won’t help India.

      This govt. alone has piled up so much of political gimmicks that even coining a name for the next gimmick seems to be a formidable task.

      Our neighbour country China, although communist/ authoritarian ruled, is touting complete eradication of extreme poverty. At least they are competent.

  13. worst writer ever. after causing all that damage on jan 26, 2 days later, he said kalank is gone now. so longas farmers stay behind leaders such as these, their lot would never improve

  14. Yogendra SALIM yadav can do any job for a price,he doesn’t care if money comes from Chinese,Pakistani or Khalistani supporters;he fulfills the commitment by writing articles in media,giving sponsored interviews and fomenting unrest through his urban Naxals friends in press,judiciary,retired civil servants.
    This caucus needs to be broken for India to progress and realize it’s true potential.

    • There used to be a great sage named Bharadwaj in ancient India. While you have cleverly adopted his name you share none of his qualities. Instead of responding to Yogendra Yadav’s arguments about the future of Indian farmers and agriculture you are just being abusive and claiming some imaginary conspiracy. At a minimum you should drop Bharadwaj from your surname as that is nothing but an insult to this saint.

      • Okay, let’s critique what YoYa has said: let Govt throw 3-4 lakh crore (not even a specific number, this is as random as it gets) at the farmers, offer MSP on all sorts of crops – not just wheat and paddy (bankrupt the exchequer), and provide MORE subsidies across the board, indiscriminately (not like that has led to the poisoning of the land and draining of the water tables). In YoYa’s fat-filled phrasing, this is, ‘a combination of income support with ecologically appropriate agriculture.’ Boring, meaningless, moving on, Bhardwaj, whom you are personally attacking, has correctly said that there is a nexus of urban Naxals behind these nonsense ideas that achieve nothing except foment discontent. And no, this is not ‘imaginary’. The Left is absurdly transparent and has followed the exact same modus operandi across the world for 100+ years. Nothing new to see here.

      • Well said. Actually, there is a herd which will abuse, denigrate and question any one who tries to show a path other than what is shown by the present dispensation.

  15. The blood of the coming generation of farmers is on your hands Mr. Yogendra Yadav. By opposing these laws to satisfy your masters, you have done a big harm to the complete farming community. Your wishful thinking has just ensured that the farmers will remain under the political class as a vote bank and will never be able to free themselves from this vicious cycle. History will remember you as the person who ensured the death for the small time farmers by opposing these laws, which otherwise would have opened new avenues for them. No amount of such article will wash away what you have done. Congratulations for your achievement. No political party going forward will touch this issues anymore. They will keep the status quo as such and the rich beneficial farmers will continue to reap the harvest while the poor will continue to suffer.. thanks to you and your ilk.

  16. What can you expect from a Urban Naxal like Yogendra Yadav , please lock him up for ever , he praposed to take personal property from all asset holders in India and distribute to poor , then who wants to earn money in India, just be poor and grab everything for free !!

  17. Lol..

    In the same article he says against “corporate agri” but wants “flourishing pvt initiatives”!!! Private what? Sole proprietorship? At what scale?!

    You can write such crap when you have no skin in game just trying to play with words, fish votes and re-build a failed career by creating anarchy.

    If pvt cant buy from farmers, stock or transport across states, fearing arrest under ECA which idiot will invest?!

    Income support is fine but that should be to all not just farmers. Will he tell farmers to remove MSP to fund that?

    Leave it to Modi offer useful suggestions.

  18. From someone opposing the farm laws the foregoing long narrative does not have single specific argument and all it sounds like leaders yelling at the borders to roll back the laws in sophisticated language. How will the psephology work for this mobocracy ? When highly educated people take such a stand it only means that there is just no logic or argument.
    It was quite obvious from the speeches , threats and utterances before the 26th Jan that a disturbance was sought to be created for higher visibility and to needle the police for action, that is why the leaders were not seen at the forefront of the mob. The presence of the lumpen elements was nor realized or was overlooked by design, in any case it went out of control in magnitude leading to serious legal action some thing not bargained for so most of the leaders are not be seen or heard any more.
    The toolkit gives it a new direction, so the real farmer is at loss to understand where he has been taken and to what end.

  19. Rural India should definitely not be a dustbin of history, but Andolanjeevis, like Shri Yogendra Yadav, certainly should be.

  20. What a comment! A lot of waffle including, for form’s sake, ecology, but totally hot air! The farm laws passed are necessarily a first step in modernising agriculture and lifting real farmers out of poverty and from under the dictatorship by the rich farmers’ power grab. Writers lke these are a menace, with their false flags and hidden agendas and must be defeated.

  21. Salim bhai is proving useless to pakistani and chinese handlers.

    Anti Rafale movement,anti CAA protest followed by RIOTS and many more .

    Then a plan which was for china to bring lots of men and equipment into disputed territory then to create chaos and bloodshed on 26th Jan to ensure diversion of resources to ensure a successful chinese invasion. That also failed.

    Now the government has to dismantle organisations involved in promoting bloodshed and chaos who were riding roughshod for past 60 years and were being used to soften opposition to congrass politics.

  22. The author seems to be a representative of rich middlemen rather then the farmer he claims to speak on behalf. The truth is that the current Mandi system only supports a small number of vested interests like politicos, middlemen, rich farmers etc. There is no benefit to the vast number of consumers, poor farmers and land labourers. The author belongs to this group of vested interests who wish to perpetuate this inequity of minority rich and majority poor.

  23. ” But much of State support must go towards building agricultural and rural infrastructure that facilitates private entrepreneurship, agro-processing, farmers’ cooperatives, animal husbandry, forestry, and so on. Flourishing private initiative in agriculture needs more, not less, State support and initiative “. Isn’t this what these laws want? Matlab kisan ke saamne ek baat, media mein ek aur baat, aur mann mein bhagwaan jaane kya baat? Sad to see this. Hypocrisy = YY ji.

  24. “”Indian agriculture will follow an Indian path. “”
    Basically yogendra yadav intends to keep the farmer poor and gullible. Or else who would listen to him anymore !! The government doesn’t support tailors, plumbers or employees. Why should it support farmers. The truth is farmers have either gone too complacent or they have lost interest. If not, how did the farmer in Maharashtra buy a helicopter to deliver milk ?? 🤣🤣

    • I liked the word coined by Modi Andolan jeevi. They have no purpose but to protest. Enviromental activist supporting protesters – to let farmers.burn stubble in Punjab and choke kids in Delhi, let them pump water and use.fertilisers and let the desertification of land continue.

      Protests with no valid arguments can be job of aandolan jeevis.

  25. the points that you make in the article are exactly what the three farm laws set out to do. By allowing contract farming and freedom to sell outside APMCs, the laws are absolutely promoting private entrepreneurship in agriculture. The leftist propaganda (of which you are definitely a proponent) looks at this private involvement as only the evil corporations. But it can be so much more!
    You yourself accept that ‘prices are kept low and systematically so’ – by whom? The end consumer has been paying high prices and will continue to and yet when this profit does not trickle down to the growing farmer, you can imagine where it ends up. This parasitic middle-man is what the three laws try to cut out. I also firmly believe they are the ones protesting rather than the actual farmers. I find that this article is more in support for the farm laws, rather than against!

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