Autocracy meets too much democracy

Indian farmers are protesting to safeguard their rights, and the collateral damage could increase

Published 3 years ago on Dec 18, 2020 1 minute Read

Holding human skulls, several old, lanky farmers demonstrated in front of Trichy district collector’s office on September 25. The protest symbolised what their condition would become, if the new Farm Bills were eventually implemented. To emphasise further, few farmers were tied with long chains indicating that the Bills had them on leash. Three months later, farmers across the nation are on the roads and the economy is on the leash.

According to CII, the farmers’ agitation has led to disruption in supply chains and logistics, which “may impinge the ongoing recovery from the economic contraction due to COVID.” Around two-third consignment in transit are taking 50% extra time to reach their destinations, pushing logistics cost by 8-10%. For a country that has plunged into recession, all of this is definitely not good news.

While putting a number to this disruption is difficult, industry body ASSOCHAM roughly estimates a daily loss of Rs.30 billion-35 billion in the economies of the protesting region. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has also informed that trade and related activities of about Rs.50 billion have been affected in the past month. And, a loss of over Rs.1.5 billion in toll revenue has been incurred due to the protest, said NHAI. If things continue the way they are, there is no doubt that the collateral damage will increase.

Now, for context, the agriculture sector is the primary source of livelihood for over 58% of India’s population and contributes approximately 17.2% to the GDP. With the implementation of the three new laws — Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act — farmers fear corporate takeover of the sector.

All they ask for is the safety net of MSP (minimum support price) and what they have received thus far is highhandness, an impatient hearing and high-pressure water canons on a chilly winter morning.