Why are Farmers Protesting Against the Government’s Agricultural Reforms?

28 September 2020
Why are Farmers Protesting Against the Government’s Agricultural Reforms?

The Government of India passed three farm reform bills- The Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament. The passage of these bills has led to widespread protests by farmers across the country. It has also raised critical concerns over the direction in which agricultural reforms should go, the nature of these three bills and the process through which they were passed in Parliament. 

In this episode of CPR’s podcast, ThoughtSpace, Yamini Aiyar, President & Chief Executive of CPR, speaks with Dr Mekhala Krishnamurthy, Senior Fellow and Director, State Capacity Initiative at CPR and Associate Professor, Ashoka University, and Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairperson, Bharat Krishak Samaj. Krishnamurthy and Jakhar are India’s most prolific commentators on agriculture and have deeply studied agricultural reforms. They shed light on what the current reforms mean for the Indian farmer and the future of agriculture in the country.

In an earlier episode of ThoughtSpace, Dr Mekhala Krishnamurthy discussed how the government could strengthen the mandi system to truly double farmers’ incomes. Listen here.

Scholars at CPR have closely followed these developments and studied their implications for agriculture. Read their analysis below:

  • In Hindustan Times, Yamini Aiyar and Mekhala Krishnamurthy highlight how the farmers' agitation at Delhi's doorstep exposes deep fault lines and new possibilities in the politics of representation, reform and Centre-state relations. They shed light on the need for a renewed politics of trust to truly reform agriculture.
  • In an article published in Hindustan Times in October, they had examined the federal implications arising out of the way in which the farm laws were passed in Parliament. They highlighted the need for political statesmanship and consensus-building for genuine cooperative federalism to reform agriculture.
  • In a discussion on India Ahead News, Mekhala Krishnamurthy analyses whether farmers will get better prices for their produce with the entry of big companies. She highlights the need to strengthen the farmer’s terms of engagement in the agricultural markets through investment.
  • a discussion on India Ahead News, Yamini Aiyar discusses why the farmers’ protest is an important political moment. She highlights that no country has made a structural transformation from agriculture to industrialisation without first enhancing agricultural productivity. She explains that our failure to do so has led to a deep agrarian crisis, amplified consistently due to policy decisions over the last few years and the economic crisis India now confronts.
  • How have we arrived at a point where the effect of laws promulgated to enable freer trade in agricultural produce has led to the State erecting extraordinary physical barriers to prevent farmers, the producers, from entering the capital city to protest and place their demands? In this video, Mekhala Krishnamurthy discusses  key aspects of the farm laws to contextualise the ongoing farmers' agitation.
  • In ThePrint, Mekhala Krishnamurthy analyses the issue of licensing and registration of farm produce buyers. She writes, under the new law, farmers won’t know if the PAN-wielding buyer has been registered, and also won't have access to timely and updated price information in trading areas. Furthermore she highlights that agricultural marketing laws as a whole—need to be re-examined keeping in mind the basic principles, processes, investments, and institutions essential to create the robust and supportive regulatory architecture that agricultural markets in India actually need.
  • In ThePrint, Asim Ali analyses the opposition to the farm laws despite the fact that the agricultural reforms push had all the features and sensibilities of Narendra Modi’s distinctive middle-class politics of aspiration. He highlights that Modi's middle-class constituency is essentially a coalition of two strikingly distinct classes — the traditional middle classes and the neo-middle classes. These two classes are bound together more by a sensibility and a loose ideological orientation rather than any concrete interests, and these hard limits have become apparent in the farmers' protest.
  • In a discussion organised by ThePrint, Mekhala Krishnamurthy highlighs how the current farm laws ignore the first principles of reform, which include good price discovery & mechanism to ensure good price settlement for farmers. She underscores the need to to see farmers as active economic agents who deserve investment & support and the need to preserve the diversity and complexity of India's agricultural systems. 
  • In Hindustan Times, Shoumitro Chatterjee highlights the need for a credible risk mitigation strategy. He sheds light on the linkages between the level and volatility of farmer incomes and underscores that freer and integrated markets will make their incomes even more volatile. 

The views shared belong to individual faculty and researchers and do not represent an institutional stance on the issue.