10 May, 2021

So Shall They Reap

Would the new farm legislation harm farmer interest, end the MSP-based procurement regime and benefit corporates? Or, would these give farmers freedom to trade across states, double their income, bring prosperity? The jury is out.

Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee
So Shall They Reap

The word ‘reforms’ can carry a double meaning. One calls attention to the literal sense, a positive one; the other insists on its exact opposite, a shadow meaning with an edge sharp enough to kill. The Indian farmer reaping acute distress is an age-old one—but it was in the post-reforms phase that death formally entered the frame. The grim harvest of suicides began in the mid-1990s. Farm policy has had a schizoid quality to it ever since. It was routine till the mid-2000s for pro-reforms economists to blithely foretell the death of agriculture as the mainstay of India’s millions: it was fundamentally unremunerative, and only a mass shift to urbanisation and services could feed India, they’d say. At the same time, the realisation that this line was politically unremunerative set in by UPA-I, and so it went hand in hand with ‘pro-farmer’ language. The era of loan waivers was upon us, followed now by talk of ‘doubling’ farm incomes. It’s within this frame that the latest bills of reforms ruffle the air.


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