Poor farmers

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readSep 28, 2020

Source : Google photo of a poor farmer in India

Synopsis : The poor and landless farmers are the hardest hit in India who are exploited by the rich land owners in many parts. Now the government of India has come up with measures to help them so that they too can get some relief from their hardship.

Yesterday a new bill was proposed in the lower house of the Parliament by the Indian government that for the first time introduced measures to stop the exploitation of the poor farmers of India by the rich farmers, give them the freedom to sell their produce anywhere they get a better price, a guaranteed price of their produce by the government, crop insurance policy, better opportunities to work in the rural sector, cheaper fuel and electricity for their farm, better road connectivity to the market and numerous other benefits designed to lift them out of poverty.

Most farmers cultivating land in India fall into the category of poor because they own less than 2 hectares of land or nothing and comprise of 86% of the total farming population. Among them the worst affected farmers are the landless farmers who are forced to work as share croppers for the rich land lords that barely keeps them alive so they move to cities to get work during off season to feed their family. They go back to their villages during the land preparation, seeding and harvest but they remain poor.

The rich landlords who own most of the land ask the sharecroppers to till their land and get the lion’s share of the produce. This has always been so. On top of that the poor farmers must sell their farm produce in the whole sale market where the middlemen give them a low price and sell the grains at a much higher price to make huge profit.

This system of whole sale grain market is prevalent in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that have the most rich agricultural land but where the rich farmers profit the most at the expense of the poor. These rich farmers belong to the land owning caste in India who also contribute to the political parties for their election so that once elected, they will serve the interest of the rich farmers and maintain the status quo.

So it was no wonder that the opposition politicians made a huge ruckus in the lower house when the bill was introduced and one of them tore up the rule book and tried to wrench the microphone of the speaker of the house because they were elected to protect the rich farmers who contribute to their election coffer. They were not in favor of helping the poor farmers anywhere. If the farmers sell their grains or other products in the open market to get the maximum price, it will put the middlemen out of business so they are agitating the farmers and telling them lies that the will lose their land under the new law.

But the Government had the numbers so the bill was passed in the upper house in the parliament and later in the lower house as well and will soon become the law when the President of India signs it.

So I started to think of the huge injustice the poor and the landless farmers suffered for so long in the hands of the rich and saw the parallel in the US and in many European countries where the poor farmers suffer the most. You will see them dumping their produce, milk and fruits on the road because of very low price they get because they cannot store their farm produce in safe and protected warehouses until they can get a better price.

In India the poor farmers face the similar situation and often dump their harvest on the road because they do not have storage facilities for their potatoes and other crops so they have to sell it at very low price to the middle men who then make the most profit.

Now this bill gives them protection and the freedom to sell their produce directly to the highest bidders. Everyone has cell phone now so they can contact the buyers on the Internet and find out the best price which often turns out to be 4 times higher than what the middlemen used to pay. It is needless to say that the poor farmers are very happy with this new law and will hugely benefit from it. When they earn more money than before, they will have less incentive to go to cities to make a living during the hard times.

They will also be free from the loan sharks for the first time who exploit them with loans at high interest rate .Often these loan sharks are the rich farmers. It is the same here in the Philippines where the rich mill owners loan the money to the rice farmers at high interest rate that they deduct from the sale of rice by the farmer so the mill owners get richer and the farmers doing all the hard work get poorer. They can’t seem to get out of their debt trap. Many sell their land and move to cities but when their money runs out, they are back to square one with no land to cultivate.

There have been thousands of suicides in India where the poor farmers cannot meet ends and fall into the debt trap so now this bill will prevent such desperate moves by the farmers who will from now on be protected by guaranteed farm prices, free choice of selling their produce to the highest bidders and with crop insurance if something goes wrong during the season so I call it a landmark bill that for the first time has been passed to help the very poor.

The capitalist system is basically anti poor where the rich farmers or the big agricultural corporations reap all the benefits of farm subsidy and monopoly at the expense of the poor. This has led to the drastic decrease in the total number of small private farmers who used to own land and were able to feed their family but that has changed. Now only 3 % of the total population of the United States is engaged in farming as compared to a much higher percentage a few decades ago. Now big corporations own most of the land and raise crops in grand scale with modern machines and demand the price they get for the produce.

The big companies that sell chicken nationally and internationally sub contract their operations to the small individual chicken growers like in Arkansas and provide them with the chicks and feed to raise them and buy them at a low price when they grow big. After deducting all the cost of inputs, the chicken farmers are left with very little so they remain poor. If they protest and demand a higher price for their hard work, they are threatened by the big companies who may not buy their chicken saying they are of poor quality or are too small. They still have to pay back the cost of the inputs so the farmers see no choice but to agree to the terms.

I wrote about a private dairy farmer in Oregon who had a few cows and was selling pure fresh milk but the big milk producing companies could not tolerate this competition so they pressured the government inspectors who were in their pay roll to shut down this poor farmer. They found many faults in his operation and shut him down so the poor farmer sold all his cows to get money to fight it out in the court where he lost. Who can ever fight the government that protects the rich and ignores the poor?

Now the Farm protection bill introduced in India will protect all poor farmers in the country and give them better opportunities but it shakes up the entrenched system where only the rich farmers benefit so naturally they will be upset. The political parties that take their contributions will also be in trouble so they protest in the Parliament. No one really cares about the poor except the present government that is pro poor. The previous governments did nothing to help the poor farmers so maintained the status quo.

The curse of middlemen who come between the producer and the consumer is a worldwide phenomenon. Here in the Philippines the middlemen go out to sea to buy the fish from the fishermen in their boats, pay them a low price and sell the same fish at three or four times the price in the market often changing hands 2 or 3 times. The fishermen are not allowed to sell their catch directly in the market so after all their hard work, they still remain poor.

Once I wanted to buy a goat from a farmer in a market but the middlemen stopped me because they said that the farmer can only sell his goat through them so that they can make profit. I declined and returned without the goat.

Once a CNN reporter asked the poor cocoa famers in the Ivory Coast how much they got for the cocoa. They said that they got pittance and it even did not pay for all the hard work they did to produce cocoa. Then the reporter gave them a piece of chocolate and said that it was made from cocoa powder by big companies that paid a poor price for the cocoa and sold its chocolates at a high price. He gave them some to eat who had never tasted chocolate so they were surprised. The farmers now understood to what extent they were exploited so that they remained poor while the foreign companies got richer by selling the chocolates.

I feel happy when I see the farmers bringing their produce in the markets and sell them directly to the consumers. This way they get a better price and avoid the middlemen but the middlemen often threaten them with physical violence. May be if the farmers could organize themselves to demand a better price from the buyers, it would improve their lot.

I see it as the main problem with the capitalistic system. When a very great scientist called Nicola Tesla said that he could provide unlimited cheap electricity to everyone in the United States using his scientific methods, the capitalists were greatly alarmed because they had invested heavily in power generation plants and the distribution system so they did not want cheap electricity. They would lose their money and become bankrupt so they sidelined Nicola Tesla, stopped all the funding for his research so Tesla died in a poor hotel room, destitute and hungry.

The capitalists do not care about helping the poor and care only about how much money they can make from the poor. It is the same in India where the rich farmers exploit the poor and keep all the benefits to themselves.

Robin Hood fought for the poor because he saw how they were being kept poor. In India also there was a Robin Hood called Man Singh who fought for the poor, who protected the abused poor farmers but ultimately the police gunned him down with no less than 64 bullets one day. The policemen were protecting the rich farmers who called Man Singh a bandit who was hurting their interest.

My heroes are Che Guevara and Fidel Castro who brought independence to Cuba and freed the poor farmers from bondage to rich farmers who were exploiting them. Together they set up the best land reform program in the world where all the land less farmers were given their own land and were helped with modern technology to get the maximum production from their land. The rich land lords fled to Miami with whatever loot they could gather but Cuba has made progress where everyone is given free education and free health care of the best quality. But the rich capitalist countries put sanctions on Cuba because it had hurt their capitalistic system and their rich businessmen. Even today the sanctions continue.

In India we now have a government that is helping the poor farmers and has come up with a bill to help them legally once it becomes the law of the land. There are those who oppose due to their own vested interests but eventually the poor will get the benefits from the law so that is what matters. A country cannot make progress until its elected government takes care of all the people, where everyone has a fair shake and where everyone can participate in the nation building process in his own way.

What the Indian government needs is to set up nationwide storage facilities in rural areas where the farmers can store their produce at a very reasonable cost until they can get a good price. It reminds me of the huge grain silos in the Lancaster county in Pennsylvania where the Amish farmers store their corn and other food grains. They built these silos themselves. I wrote a blog called A criminal waste that you should read.

In India the shortage of decent storage facilities in rural areas results in massive loss due to rain, rats and insects that amount to several millions of tons of food grain every year. The farmers need help in setting up such facilities in their villages where they can store and protect their harvest so the government must step in.

They have to make it easier for the poor farmers to get farm loans from the agricultural banks so that they can buy the inputs like fertilizer and seeds instead of getting into the hands of loan shark.

Some state governments have promised the farmers that their farm debts will be forgiven or minimized but it remains to be seen how it will help the poor. Their suicide rate is shameful in a country that claims to be a fast developing country.

Still I believe that the Farm bill introduced yesterday is a right step in the right direction that will help all the poor farmers of India tremendously in the future and will improve their financial well being. No country that wants to be a developed country can leave behind its poor and build malls and highways only for the rich.

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