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Explained Ideas: What both the Centre as well as protesting farmers are failing to recognise

Sadly, both sides have continued to ignore the broader ecological and social contexts in which agriculture is embedded, write four analysts affiliated to the Network of Rural and Agrarian Studies.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 8, 2020 10:18:11 am
Farrmers shout slogans as they block a major highway during a protest against new farm laws at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border (AP)

Proponents of the three new farm laws have claimed that they will engender competition in agricultural markets and will give farmers a choice to sell wherever they like.

The opponents of these laws, including many farmer groups, have forcefully argued that these policies will strangle the mandi system, spell the end of the Minimum Support Price (MSP), and lead to oligopolistic buying by large agribusinesses.

“These debates, however, have remained restricted to the realm of agricultural marketing and the economics of livelihoods. They miss the fundamental reality of today’s times — that the current agrarian impasse reflects the fatigue of dominant approaches to agriculture, which assumes growth is limitless and resources are inexhaustible,” write four analysts affiliated to the Network of Rural and Agrarian Studies, which has just published the State of Rural and Agrarian India Report 2020.

Also in Explained Ideas | Farmer protests: Why the govt should not allow the positions to harden

“Added to this is India’s agrarian structure, closely aligned with the caste structure, thereby marking the whole system with tremendous inequality in access to natural resources, capital and markets,” they state.

A combination of all these is reflected in the multiple ecological, economic and social crises that beset rural India.

“To tackle all these challenges, we require alternative policies that address these foundational deficits and go beyond the dominant paradigm of high-external-input, high-cost agriculture,” they write in their opinion piece in The Indian Express. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Unfortunately, the scientific paradigm of single-crop productivity has promoted an agricultural system with ecologically unsustainable cropping patterns. It has contributed significantly to climate emissions and threatened farmer livelihoods and the natural resource base they depend upon. Moreover, it has also distorted our food consumption patterns, replacing nutritious millets with polished rice and wheat and negatively affected our nutritional security.

“In attempting to offer a new deal to farmers, do the new farm laws recognise or address any of these fundamental concerns? Do the farmer organisations pressing for continued MSPs and subsidies recognise the in-built reproduction of these problems in this model?” they ask.

Instead of a resource-based approach, the need is to develop a relationship-based approach towards the environment.

“If we truly want to ensure the livelihoods of our farmers and provide safe, healthy, nutritious food for our consumers, it is imperative to make policies that go beyond the productivity trope and populist posturing,” they conclude.

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