“The government should provide a Rs 1.5 lakh-crore economic package to the farmers”

Gaon Connection has sought the views of agricultural experts to understand what should be done to help our farmers during this lockdown. Read what the Bhartiya Kisan Union has to say

Gaon Connection
| Updated: Last updated on May 13th, 2020,

The Bharatiya Kisan Union, a union of farmers, celebrated the International Farmers’ Struggle Day on April 17. In many parts of the country, farmers stood with their agricultural tools in their homes and fields and tried to reach out to the government. The farmers were demanding an economic package for the losses they have incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the state and the central government, Chaudhary Rakesh Tikat, the national spokesperson of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, has demanded systemic reforms in agriculture. He has proposed long-term corrective measures for the betterment of farming and farmers.

1. The government should work towards eliminating any monopoly of the international agricultural companies on essential commodities so that we should promote and support farmers, agriculture and local agri-markets keeping in view the health requirements in this fight against hunger.

2. Our job as a farmer is to provide food to the people, and we will continue to do so. We understand that the production of food cannot stop and this is the first stage of defense against COVID-19. It is necessary to have a safe and dignified living system for the farmers during and after the crisis.

Ashish Yadav, farmer and member of Bhartiya Kisan Union, while collecting dry stalks

3. From ploughing to looking for answers: We need to learn from our history. It is necessary to work collectively because this practice has been going on for several thousand years. Civil society, people organizations and nations have to work comprehensively for justice and dignity.

4. Food Sovereignty: It is very important to provide uninterrupted supply of food grains to mankind. Rural farmers market and local fairs should be opened up immediately to kick start food supply and prevent hunger in the cities. During this crisis, governments should ensure public procurement of food produced by small- scale farmers. We must adopt the principles of agro-ecology and feed our communities with nutritious, healthy food to boost their physical immunity that supermarkets and fast food chains can never provide.

5. Guarantee of Investment in quality public healthcare to government: In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative to ensure free testing and full treatment in urban and rural areas, with a firm commitment to protecting life and without discrimination. In this crisis, we must resist all efforts to privatize or benefit from any public services.

6. This crisis also gives us an opportunity to spread the seeds of change. We should create land for different models of society and agro-food systems. We do this to build alliances that are very useful ahead. Solidarity and internationality must be the driving values of this re-creation of our societies.

7. Manufacturer/producer consumers: We should oppose the idea of speculative marketing in agriculture or commodifying it. We should promote our local networks for business. Fair trade and barter and other systems should be promoted while strengthening the local farmer markets.

During this crisis, governments should ensure public procurement of food produced by small- scale farmers

Chief demands of Bhartiya Kisan Union:

1. Economic package of Rs 1.5 lakh crore (about 5 per cent of GDP) for farmers by the government.

2. Procurement of agricultural products at village level at minimum support price.

3. Encouraging local farmers and banning agricultural imports by eliminating dependence on import of agricultural products.

4. Milk, vegetables and fruit growers to be aided. Milk and fruits and flowers should be procured from villages directly. At the same time, the minimum support price of these perishable commodities should be fixed.

5. The government should waive off interest on their one-year power, water and bank loans to compensate the huge losses suffered by farmers due to heavy hailstorm and rain in the recent past.

6. Give priority to reinvestment in public policies for health, education, labour and rural areas instead of focusing on repayment of foreign debt.

Read the first part of the series here

Read the second part of the series here