The farm bill that has been passed by the government of India in September 2020 is being opposed by the farmers across India. Farmers have been protesting since 26 November in different locations across the borders of New Delhi, against the laws. Farmers in Jammu and Kashmir mostly lack awareness about the farm law according to Kashmir based agricultural unions but on 8 December, they protested in solidarity with the farmers protesting in the other states of India. The Kashmir Walla talked to two people to know what they think about the law and its impact on the farmers of Jammu and Kashmir.
Basheer Ahmad Basheer
Chairperson Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union
The mindset of the government is that they want us to give our whole work to the corporates. Right now, they are silent about that but what we understand is that by this, the farmers are going to be at a loss — be it a fruit grower or a vegetable grower. All the growers are at loss because of the laws passed by the government. In markets, growers fix their own rate for their products and sell them, keeping their profit in mind. Corporates will fix their own rates and then they will keep their own mark and stick their own tag on the product and sell an item of ten rupees at the cost of 100 rupees. They will not be answerable to anyone as they will have their own mark on the product. They will pay whatever they like to the actual grower. There won’t be any competition. That’s why we — vegetable and fruit growers — believe that the farm bill is against the farmers. The government passed this bill to help the corporate sector grow.
Farmers in Kashmir are not fully aware of the farm bill but those who understand the actual consequences of the bill are talking against it. That is why we are protesting in support of the farmer’s protest today. What we want is that the grower’s products should go to the consumer but when we would have the products in bulk then the consumer won’t be able to take them directly. If Adani will take our apples tomorrow and paste his own labels on it and pack it the way he wants, then he will sell at his own price as well. When there is competition, the growers have their profit. Be it the market or anywhere else, wherever the growers go to sell their product, they earn money according to their wishes. Our fear is that they are giving the command to the corporate sector.
We had the BSNL cellular network here, owned by the government — is it anywhere now? Everyone is talking about Jio. The government gave Jio such a facility that BSNL lacked behind. Similarly, we believe that our grower might become their employee tomorrow. It is like what East India company did back then, that’s what will happen. Farmer’s all Fruit Associations of the valley are protesting in solidarity with the Bharat Bandh call of the farmers across the country. All fruit and vegetable markets in the valley, such as Sopore, Parimpora, Shopian, Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Kupwara, Handwara, Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam, Jablipora, Pachahar, Chrar-e-Sharief and Ganderbal are shut today. These protests might get us into the notice of the government and they realize we are not in favor of the farm bill. The farmers who are protesting outside might help us as well, otherwise who listens to Kashmiris? We can only keep our markets close for the business and hope that we get into their notice.
Horticulture is not a part of farm law because there is an institution called the Agricultural prices commission. It carries out exercises about costs and returns of agricultural products. Then the report is given to the government of India. Then the government announces a commodity wise price. That price is called the Support price. For example, the support price for rice is 1000 per quintal. In case free market price determined by supply and demand is 900 rupees. At that time, the government acts as a purchaser. It purchases at a time when the prices are low. So basically it covers the cost. It should be made mandatory. Apple is not a part of this. The main production center of apples is in Himachal Pradesh. Moreover, only the food prices including dals, rice, jawar, bajra are part of it. These products go to markets at fixed prices. The minimum support price is given to them. If the prices are high they get that, but if the prices are low, at that time the government gives it to them.
In this law, small producers are free to sell wherever they want outside the mandi. The big growers purchase the harvest from small growers and create a stock and later sell at higher prices. The Government created a law through which small scale farmers can sell anywhere. Big growers are just making them believe that this is wrong. That is why they are agitating.
This is a sort of intermediate marketing. Kashmir doesn’t have any major agricultural products which require marketing. There is no surplus, there is only a deficit. We import twelve lac tonnes of rice every year. Apples are exported, only transport is an issue here. Price is never an issue for them. I don’t think Jammu and Kashmir are affected by this law.