This Article is From Dec 13, 2020

Open Letter From A Sardar Farmer To Free Market Champions

Dear FMCs (Free Market Champions)

There are 5 reasons why I - a "true" Sardar farmer - believe you have not understood (through no fault of yours) the essence of agriculture and the life of a Punjab farmer.

1. Change the Cropping Pattern: Don't lecture us about producing less rice and wheat and switching to other crops - we have no secret emotional affinity to rice and wheat. For decades, we Sardar farmers have been craving a change in our cropping pattern. But the only honest way to ensure changes in cropping pattern is to provide MSPs (Minimum Support Price) for the other crops as well. India is producing too much wheat and rice - 50 million tonnes too much! On the other hand, a shortage causes a price rise of other crops - like onions and dal. To redress this imbalance, decide on MSPs levels based on what crops our country needs. Then watch a cropping pattern revolution take place. My dear FMCs, to expect the free market to lead to an optimal cropping pattern change is to live in a fantasy world.

2. Reducing Uncertainty Must Be the Primary Goal: Indian agriculture is more volatile than any other farming community globally - more dependent on nature, the monsoon, frost and rain at harvest time, and a variety of pests. It is a nerve-wracking existence. The risks are so large that they undermine our decisions and reduce our productivity. A rational MSP policy for all crops is the only policy that reduces uncertainty, and can ensure that farmers move from rice and wheat to other crops.


Thousands of farmers have been camping on the outskirts of Delhi since late November demanding the government repeal the farm laws

3. Turn These Three Bills Around, Now: We need less risk through more price intervention with MSPs in order to both reduce uncertainty and change cropping patterns. In other words, we need the exact reverse of the three new government laws - these laws are designed to create more uncertainty and market chaos. Learn from history; our Green Revolution was not created by FMCs. The Green Revolution was the outcome of much-needed massive and rational government intervention. Almost all nations, including developed ones, do not leave their agricultural economy or their famers to the vagaries of the free market. Globally, every nation's agriculture sector is the most subsidised and regulated of all sectors of the economy.

4. Are Punjab Farmers Rich? We are often told we are "spoilt", we are "rich", we are the "top 10 per cent" of farmers in India - so we should not demand a better life. Firstly, what is wrong with being well-off? Does India need a policy that reduces farmer income and impoverishes us? Please be proud of the fact that Punjab's farmers have worked hard and achieved desirable income levels - this is what we should aim at for all our farming sisters and brothers in other states. And while you FMCs call us "rich", please recognise that by global standards, we are still among the poorest 25 per cent of all farmers in the world.

5. What Next? Be a Sardar, Keep It Simple and Practical: We need to immediately put these three risk-heightening laws in abeyance. Immediately, pass a fresh bill announcing a rational system that is focussed on MSPs for all crops and vegetables, an MSP system that is aimed at reducing risk and uncertainty, improving productivity and diversifying cropping pattern to match what our country needs.