Kavitha Kuruganti who has been working for farmers' rights for nearly three decades says that she has never seen this scale of protests which are currently unfolding on the borders of the national capital.
Kuruganti is the national convener of Kisan Swaraj Gathbandhan- a movement to ensure corporate-influence free and environmentally sustainable farming. In an interview with News18, she explained why the ongoing farmers’ movement is not just unfolding in Punjab and Haryana. And why the farmers are not agreeing to anything less than the complete rollback of these three farm laws.
Is the ongoing protest against the Agri laws being led by the farmers of Punjab and Haryana only or is the demand for the repeal of these laws more widespread?
To begin with, the ‘Delhi Chalo’ call was given mainly for the five North Indian states – Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand. The plan was that the distant states such as those in the south will take up local-level programs, because getting so many farmers all the way across to Delhi, given the restriction in railway travel, was not possible. Those from the south couldn’t come in large numbers on their tractors. This was clear to everyone. So, I don’t really understand why people are surprised that only four north Indian states have participated in it in a major way.
How is the response from other states?
I’ll say that the response has been tremendous. What is happening throughout the country today is absolutely awe-inspiring. I have never seen anything like this in my life. While in the case of Punjab the entire society seems to have come out behind its farmers, there has been huge support towards the farmers in other states as well.
In Karnataka, there were very large-scale protests for several weeks now, which the vernacular media has been duly covering. Here the additional anger is against the proposed land-reforms amendment which the government tried to turn into law through an ordinance earlier as well. In states like Tamil Nadu, the outpour is tremendous. In a protest led by DMK thousands of farmers protested at the beaches but somehow these images did not travel to New Delhi.
Many including the farmers’ outfit of the RSS have asked the protesting farmers why they aren’t climbing down from their demand for a complete rollback of the Agri laws, given that the government has indicated that it is willing to make changes in the existing laws. Why do you think this is so?
These laws are being seen by the farmers as basically facilitating corporate control over the lives of the farmers. It is not only a price related issue here. These laws provide a policy direction in which agriculture in this country is going to move ahead. The underlying problem is with that.
The government is basically, through these laws, saying that we will prioritise whatever the corporate businesses want. It is snatching away all the protection of the farmers. The objective of these laws in themselves are suspect. This is not to do with amending the existing laws.
Farmers have been demanding reforms in the current MSP regime and the procurement regime. We want the government to state firmly that they are not going to prioritise big corporates over the farmers. Everything in this bill affects the farmers, naturally, they are upset. Shamefully the most hungry people in this country today are the same people who are feeding this country. This fight is about protecting the most marginalised citizens of the country.