Public Health, Public Interest or Only Self-interest of Punjab & Haryana Farmers?

India is observing a Farmers’ Protest in Delhi. While various opinions are pouring in about true motive of such protest, some are of the opinion that Farmers understand pros and cons of the 3 new Agro Laws passed by Modi Government very well & they’re rightly apprehensive about their future. One such opinion leader is P Sainath. Some others think Farmers are being politically misled by a group of people who are working with vested interest. Many people could observe Khalistani Agenda behind Farmers’ Protest while a larger section of common people are almost sanguine that the protest is being instigated by the Congress Party. There’s a third opinion that says protesting farmers haven’t ever read the new Agro Laws but agitating based on rumours.

While search for real reason behind such a protest is on, an infographic of India Today group came into being showing total number of protesting farmers in different parts of Delhi to be approximately 15 – 17 thousand. Out of this number, only 500 – 700 farmers are from Western UP while all the rest are from Punjab & Haryana. The question that’s haunting India is why the Farmers’ Protest being mainly Punjab-Haryana-centric? A prime probable reason may be speculated based on facts & figures.

Common people of India who predominantly consume food grains of Public Distribution System, have so far consumed food grains produced mainly by Punjab & Haryana. Applying chemical fertilizers in havoc quantity, Punjab, Haryana so far, have yielded ample Agro-products which have mainly been purchased by the Food Corporation of India. Another infographic published by the India Today group had presented that 65% of total purchase of Paddy by FCI is from Punjab, 18% from Haryana & the rest 17% from the rest of the States. Similarly, 33% of total wheat purchase by FCI is from Punjab, 19% from Haryana & the rest 48% from all other States put together. The lion’s share of Government’s Purchase & money thereof thus went to these two States. That would be no problems had the two big Agro Producer States given harm-free agricultural yield. However, in order to increase their quantity of production, they applied poisonous chemical fertilizers recklessly & produced crops in huge quantity twice or thrice a year. They sold them to FCI & earned their dues. Green Revolution of Punjab & Haryana increased income of Farmers of the said States by almost 70% & simultaneously caused health damage to those common people of India who depended on PDS for food grains. This came as a side effect of Green Revolution. While Punjab & Haryana GAINED in terms of money, people dependent on PDS incurred irreparable LOSS of Health. As Green Revolution revolutionized Farmers’ income, it also caused silent destruction of Public Health. Since Green Revolution began in 1966, lifestyle disorders like hypertension, metabolic syndromes like diabetes & malignant diseases have been on steady rise amongst common Indians. Though no direct correlation has been established between Green Revolution & increasing trend of these diseases, such correlation has neither been experimentally or statistically ruled out.

Agricultural Scientist, M. S. Swaminathan, who conceptualized Green Revolution in India, had later opined that such Green Revolution would cause grave sociological & economic complications in the States of Punjab & Haryana in foreseeable long term. Current agitation of Farmers in Delhi are perhaps proving Swaminathan’s projections correct.

In their spree to empathize protesting Farmers on human ground, is anyone also taking the fact into human account that huge agricultural production of Punjab, Haryana has caused extreme Health-damage of Common Indians till now? If not, then that is imprudence & not humane. Many of those who are mentally supporting Gherao & Rasta Roko movements of Farmers are also carrying those chemical poisons in vivo that the Farmers used on their field. Many of them have also perhaps developed diseases due to those unknowingly. Ignorance is bliss?

Indian farm market was mandatorily controlled by the Government till now. All purchases were scheduled through APMC. Farmers didn’t have option to sell their produce directly to anyone bypassing APMC. Those of Punjab & Haryana, hence, could sell their produce & prosper in spite of their crops being inorganic-fertilizer rich. Their crops were purchased by, if not anyone else, FCI. Now, after the 3 new Agro Reform Laws, they’re afraid, no one would purchase their inorganic-fertilizer-rich produce from open market & they’ll mandatorily have to sell them only to FCI. In controlled market, Punjab-Haryana-farmers had competitive advantage over Farmers of other States due to their huge production capacity & advanced agro infrastructure built up during Green Revolution. In open market they apprehend to lose that competitive advantage because they know crops produced by them are neither healthy nor duly tasty. In closed market, capturing lion’s share of FCI’s purchase was a competitive victory of farmers of Punjab & Haryana. In open market, selling to FCI would be their compulsion. That is perhaps what is boggling them. In open market, they’re apprehensive, not to have any choice but to sell only to FCI & thus lose competitive advantage. Initially they demanded MSP to feature in law. However, now they’re demanding complete roll back of the new Farm Laws. Did they actually apprehend that MSP would be withdrawn in future? Or were they afraid that no buyer would choose to buy their inorganic-fertilizer-rich produce from open market? They realized that post-reform, farmers of other States would hardly choose to sell through APMC but would sell directly to the consumer market more profitably. This would be possible because after reform, farmers won’t have to go to the market to sell, but market would travel back to them to buy. Farmers would get a better farm gate price increasing their net profit. This is expected to be a win-win deal for both farmers & buyers. It may even so happen in due future that individual households too would be able to purchase fresh crops directly from farm fields online. After this Agro-reform, supply & availability of good quality crops would increase in the market that may be projected to result in comparative price reduction. Hence, many people would perhaps not wait & depend on PDS any more for food grains but purchase from open market at a good price. As a result, purchase pull of FCI through APMC would also proportionately reduce. Therefore, the huge amount of assured sales that Punjab-Haryana-Farmers enjoyed till now wouldn’t remain assured any more. If demand from PDS reduces, purchase volume of FCI would also expectedly reduce in due course. Minimum Support Price too is expected to vary accordingly. Instead of rising, it may even drop depending on the price of the particular crop in open market. Observation of activities of GOI in last 6 years also suggest that in due future, Government would also judge quality parameters of agro produces before purchasing them through FCI. Considering Public Health, that would be desirable. In totality, this agro reform seems to aim at not only Farmers’ benefit, but also betterment of Public Health. If implemented religiously & all ongoing infrastructure works get completed as scheduled, then agro reform would reduce cost of medicines in common households of India & India would gain additional foreign reserve by being able to raise export of crops even after meeting the demands of domestic market. However, inorganic-fertilizer-rich crops would fail export criteria. Hence, to stay tuned, farmers of Punjab & Haryana would have to adopt change in farming style. They’ll have to take measures to make their farmland fertile again. Time respects none. Would destructive & unethical movements be able to arrest the go of time & progress of reform?

The present situation of India reminded me of a Hindi speech of ex SARSANGHCHALAK Shri Sudarshan’Ji. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to translate the same in Bengali. Given below please find the English translation of a part of it:

“We produce crops on Mother Earth. Applying chemical fertilizers & harvesting the field with machines in order to produce in larger quantities is like intoxicating Her with addictive substances. Let’s try to understand the matter in a simpler way. Man’s body is a storehouse of energy. When someone indulges into drinking alcohol, alcohol absorbs some of his internal energy & provides it to him. As a result, the man feels greater enthusiasm for the time being & works more diligently than normal. However, after some time, when his intoxication level falls, he feels lethargic, idle & weak because his internal storage of energy got depleted to some extent. However, the alcohol-addict identifies his weakness to be due to lack of alcohol & drinks more to replenish the deficiency & feel the spurt again. Thus develops the habit of drinking that depletes all his vitality & reduces longevity. This is the reason why habitual drinkers are usually short-lived. The same phenomenon happens in case of Mother Earth too. As we apply chemical fertilizers on field & dig deep into the ground, natural fertility of the land gradually goes down. Though chemical & mechanical harvesting yields much more than normal, natural fertility of the land gets compromised. Chronic usage of chemical fertilizers depletes fertility of Mother Earth & the land gradually turns infertile. Thousands of acres in America got marked as ABANDONED as they turned infertile in this way.”

Compromising on Public Health & inviting very many disorders, would people of India keep on consuming inorganic-fertilizer-rich produce of Punjab & Haryana & continue to help them prosper financially only because they are agitating on the Street? Demos of India would have the final say.

Debjani Bhattacharyya

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