central government


What normally would have been a time for celebration for the Indian farmers has now posed an uncertainty in their survival itself. But, despite everything, the Indian Farmer toils away.

Baisakhi has traditionally been a time of celebration for Indian farmers- it marks the end of the Rabi Season and the day when their crops are ready for harvest. It is also the Sikh New Year and the Hindu Solar New Year, and thus has great religious significance to it as well.

However, this year, the Indian agricultural industry faces an unprecedented challenge. The Coronavirus pandemic has brought the country to a standstill and is possibly our worst economic emergency, ever. The lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus has caused a huge disruption in the agricultural supply chains, leading to problems for tge producers, transporters and consumers.

Firstly, to harvest a crop, the sector needs labour, who mostly hail from states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. Due to the lockdown, most of them have resorted back to their villages, where a necessary sense of comfort and belongingness will be duly provided. Due to this, farmers are unable to harvest the crop mechanically or even hand pluck it, something that will lead to late harvests, which coupled with a lower yield and a shorter window to plant the next season’s crop aggravates the problems. Even in a situation where the harvesting is done, things like packaging the produce, transporting it the mandis and then to storage facilities will remain a challenge without the required labour.

The second major issue currently is the problem with distribution. Even after the Government of India has declared agriculture as an essential (which was done on 27th March, the country went into lockdown on the 24th of March) and allowed repair and supply shops toremain functional, distribution remains a major challenge. This too is heavily linked to the lack of availability of labour and the medium that can make the produce reach from the farms to the markets. Fears about a rush to the mandis the moment the harvest takes place cannot be ignored either, leading to panic selling and a further drop in prices, negatively impacting more what is already an economically unviable activity for most farmers.

Image Caption: Transportation of Crops remains a major problem for the Agriculture Industry Image Credits: Getty Images
Image Caption: Transportation of Crops remains a major problem for the Agriculture Industry
Image Credits: Getty Images

The governments at both centre and state levels have tried to counter these problems. The Central Government has released an advance of Rs. 2000 to 7.92 Crore farmers on the PM-KISAN payments while also releasing funds for states to buy the crop at Minimum Support Price (MSP). Apart from that, the Market Intervention Scheme, which reimburses farmers of perishable crops in case of low prices, has also been implemented and governmental agencies have been asked to increase obtaining of produce from these farmers at MSP. The Haryana Government has guaranteed purchase of entire stocks of mustard and wheat and increased the number of markets so that there is one market to every three villages, while also ensuring the measures to contain the spread of Coronavirus in these markets. Telangana has announced a token system for the farmers to go to the mandi and a complete decentralisation in procurement, whereby the purchases will be made through respective Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies in every village to cut down on the need for transport.

However, a lack of a coordinated policy at the national level is likely to hurt the farmers. The Centre needs to work with the State Government(s) and implement a strategy that enables the farmer to sell their wheat or other crops without having to arrange for transport. The Government can also try and get labourers to come and work if they’re willing to, perhaps taking a page out of Germany’s book, who flew in labourers from countries like Romania and Bulgaria to pick the agricultural produce. The railway network should be utilised effectively to ensure supplies reach where they’re needed and the Haryana and Telangana models should be implemented throughout the country so that the produce reaches the proper channels.

A lack of supply isn’t the problem- the winter crop this season has been bountiful. Matching the supply with the demand and getting it to where it is needed is an urgent problem that needs to be tackled on a war footing. The government needs to be proactive in its approach. While our flour mills cry out for wheat, the Food Corporation of India (FCI)is sitting on 27 million tonnes of wheat from the previous Rabi season, with a record 110 million tonnes estimated to be harvested this season.

While most of us sit in the comfort of our homes, the farmers toil daily to ensure our meals. As we clap for our doctors, this Baisakhi, we should also celebrate the farmers and express our gratitude by not indulging in hoarding of food items, wastage of any kind and use our privilege wisely to impact those who are struggling to meet their ends in such circumstances. This is the time for us to translate our solidarity into action.

Featured Image Credits: The Hindu Business Line

Khush Vardhan Dembla

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Women across India marched together to claim their constitutional rights as the citizens of a
democratic republic.

On  4th April 2019, women across all ages, religions and social classes came together to voice their collective dissent against the current government and their propagation of a politics of violence and hatred. The march began at Mandi House and was carried on till Jantar Mantar. The march was a part of a larger movement in India titled ‘Women March for Change’.

The movement represents the outrage that women and other marginalized communities have been facing since the last five years and their attempts to cement their position as equal stakeholders of democracy and the political process.The march was followed by a program which included speeches and performances of various groups and collectives across Delhi-NCR. There were student feminist groups, tribal right activists, gender rights activists, dalit feminists groups, female farmer groups to name a few. This revolutionary march witnessed diversity of voices and was a big milestone for the Indian feminist movement and the Indian social justice movement. The call for solidarity stated, “For the last five years, women of India have watched with growing anger as our struggles for equality have been dented and our hard-won freedoms undermined. We have watched misogyny, hate and lies being spread across the land. Today, on the eve of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, we say no more.”

Prominent student groups present in the march were members of  Pinjra Tod, Women Development Cells of Lady Shri Ram College, Indraprastha College and Miranda House. When asked about their personal motivations for attending the march, students spoke about a range of issues referring to the political climate of the day. “There is a constant invisibalization of women’s struggles, politicians include us in their policies, Rahul Gandhi says the Womens’ Reservation Bill will be passed, but it only a tokenistic gesture. It’s high time for us to claim public spaces,” said Deeksha, a second-year student from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce. Some also spoke of their personal struggles and sought to join the fight against the patriarchal structure, “We don’t have any freedom, even today my father tells me what not to wear, where to not go and so on. We need to get over this mindset,” said a student from Lady Shri Ram College.

Students also expressed concerns about the representation of women in politics, both in policy decisions and at important positions in the country. A student pointed out that even with three female cabinet ministers, important press conferences and announcements are always done by the male members of the cabinet citing the example of Shri. Arun Jaitley addressing the crowd after Balakot strike. “It’s disheartening to see women in politics only being referred to as somebody’s amma (mother), beti (daughter) or behen (sister). In my constituency, a female candidate was contesting for the assembly seat but the posters had pictures of her husband,” another complained.

A major concern for all the students was the condition of minorities under the current government. Most felt that although it was predominantly a women’s march, it stood for equality. It sought to dismantle a system that has been controlled by a specific section of the population whose policies and ideas made it dangerous for minorities to live in the country. Jaya Sharma, who works for a non- profit fighting for the rights of adivasi women said, “It’s extremely scary for all of us, I’m an upper caste, upper class Hindu woman and even for me the implications are scary. We cannot even begin to imagine the extent of fear that minorities feel. If there is anything we can do to stop them from coming to power again, we should do it.”

Although it was a big milestone for the feminist movement, it was very rare to see this scale of intersectionality in representation. A lot of students agreed to the fact that because of the social class they belonged to and the universities they attended, their feminism was not necessarily inclusive enough. “That is why it’s important to come to spaces like these where you get to see the larger picture. The correct way to participate  is to be conscious of the things you are saying, conscious of music you are listening to, to be aware on a day to day basis, to reflect on your mistakes and apologize. I think it’s a process,” said Sharon from Jesus and Mary College when asked about how she ensures inclusivity in her feminism. Amala from O.P Jindal Global University added, “I try to constantly read other voices from communities who don’t necessarily occupy a big place in society and therefore try to take myself out of the echo- chamber and try to encourage other people to do that as well. Obviously our university spaces are very elite and privileged, but we have to ensure that we’re exposed to other voices as well.”

The march and in extension, the movement is being carried out with the hope of carving out a distinct and powerful voice in the political scenario. “I would like to be heard. This is more of a pre-election forum for women to voice their struggles and to make it known to people that they are a force in the country “ said a student when asked what she hoped would be the outcome of the march. ‘Save our Constitution’, was what the biggest banner in the march said and it was reflective of the palpable fear that all the participants held. The actions of the current government has attacked the core values of our constitution that it had affected every single community that lived in the country.

Feature Image Credits: Pragati Thapa for DU Beat.

Pragati Thapa

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