Farmers organizations are groups of rural producers, coming together based on the principle of membership, to pursue specific common interests of their members and developing technical and economical activities that benefit the members.
Earlier , Farmers movement were led by communist leadership, But later Farmers organizations such as Bhartiya Kisan Union led by Mahendra Singh Tickait in Northern India and Shetkari Sanghthan led by Sharad Joshi group in Maharashtra used to provide leadership in their respective regions.
Changing issues with change in time:
• Earlier Farmers movements for agrarian reforms in India have been centered on the issue of land ownership and land distribution, but with the success of Green revolution, new issues and organizations came into the limelight. Post Green Revolution, agriculture production increased but farm incomes didn’t rise due to low market prices of produce and high cost of farm inputs.
• Thus these organizations raised specific demands of their self interest like rise in MSP, free electricity, water, subsidized fertilizers and waiver of farm loans etc. Another accusation that these organizations make is that the government in its bid to keep food supply cheaper in urban areas, has deliberately lowered the prices.
1. Lack of implementation of land reforms.
2. Green revolution and the rising disparities
Demand for MSP, free Water and electricity
3. Non access to institutional credit
4. Drought, dependency on rain and lack of irrigation facilities 5. Lack of social security
6. Issue of land acquisition
7. Issues such as globalization, retail FDI, contract farming and GM seeds also finds pace among these groups.
8. Ignorance of demands of Labourers and poor peasants: It has been alleged that Interest of poor peasants and Labourers are grossly ignored by these organizations. Labourers demand for higher wages are often ignored and sometimes it is also met with violence.
9. Crisis like Starvation deaths and farmers suicides have also emerged in recent times. Recent protests in vidarbha region can be linked with increase in farmer’s suicide and persistent drought in the region.
10. Evenlackofunityandabsenceofstrongleadershiparealsomajorconstraintsinfulfilling their objectives.
Most of the farmer’s organizations raise issues of local importance which restrict development of unity and consensus at national level.
Effectiveness of these methods
Apart from physical mobilization, such organizations and associations are now acting as pressure groups also. Their influence has ranged from organizing demonstration to withholding crops from the market to refusal to pay outstanding utility bills and loans. Farmers organizations are also able to keep their methods of protest largely non violent. They have also started using social media to bargain with the government.
• Mahindra Singh Tickait used methods such as dharna, Gherao and satyagrah during 1988 agitations.
• Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) is one of India’s largest cooperative societies with an amalgamation of over 36,000 Indian cooperatives with diversified business interests.
• Turmeric farmers in Sangli district, Maharashtra were probably the first in India to use social media to enhance their bargaining power for their products in 2010-11. When prices crashed in the local market, they connected with other turmeric farmers across the country to know about the existing prices and decided to avoid the local auction. While organizing all the farmers in the district generally took months, about 25,000 farmers came together in just 10 days through Facebook. The farmers protest has helped them to get a reasonable for their turmeric product.
• Farmers in North Karnataka region have organized themselves and have found solutions together in overcoming crop failures. Their initiative in including medicinal herbs in their cropping systems is paying rich dividends. They tried including Ashwagandha, a medicinal crop, in their cropping system owing to its hardiness requiring less moisture and the absence of threat from deer as they are not preferred as feed. The members of the group are supported with a financial assistance from the Department of Horticulture under National Medicinal Plants Mission.
• It depends on a lot of factors like the genuineness of the problem, Impact of market on their livelihood, financial implications on satisfying their demands, unity within these organisations etc.
For instance, in case of protests by Tamil Nadu farmers their demands were not met as central government wanted state governments to settle their grievances.
• Demands by farmers across the country to implement MS Swaminathan committee recommendations are not yet implemented.
• Demands for loan waiver will be accepted especially during election times as it is a popular issue .It happened in case of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharastra etc.
• In some cases, farmers’ demands were met very quickly.
For example: Protests by farmersin Punjab against case filed by PEPSICO on patent related issues was quickly withdrawn by the company.
Farmers organizations certainly play a huge role in acting as true representative of farmers problems to the policy makers. However unfortunately, their effectiveness has been limited due to various reasons.
Their impact can be gauged from the fact that in 2008, Government has waived the farm loan all over the country. These organizations also played a key role in the overthrow of the incumbent government in the 1989 elections. Even recent announcement of schemes such as KisansammanYojana, New land acquisition policy, hike in MSP of certain crops can be linked with the success of Farmers struggles. Even These organizations have also mobilized support against wider issues like retail FDI, Contract farming, and GM seeds etc and forced government to withhold decisions on these issues.
Farmers organisations refer to group of farmers who are organised to protect their own interests related to issues like minimum support price,subsidies,welfare schemes for farmers etc..
Ex: Bharathiya kisan Sabha,shetkari sangatan,Karnataka raitha Sangha etc..
Farmers organisations, being a pressure group,follows different types of protests to influence policy makers:
a) Lobbying: here they influence policy makers through providing information on their demands and grievances .
For example: Due to protests by Dairy Farmers, KMF increased the Rate of Milk by Rs.2 per litre
b) Protests and rallies : here they mobilise huge number of farmers and conduct rallies on a large scale to let the people understand their demands.
For example: protests by farmers in Maharashtra last year to increase msp rates,pension schemes for farmers,implement swaminathan committee recommendations etc.
c) Satyagrahas and fast unto death protests : farmers normally resort to these protests when their moderate protests didn’t satisfy their demands.
For example protests by Tamil Nadu farmers in the national capital last year.
d) Sometimes they resort to other types of protestslike throwing their crops on the road in case of low prices,blocking railways etc..
Thus to deal with the above issues Indian farmers needs stronger farmers organization which not only focuses upon raising farmers voice but can also assist farmers in providing technical knowledge and facilitate access to markets etc.
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