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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 51 New Delhi December 8, 2018

Politics of Globalisation defining the Mode of Farmers’ Agitation

Sunday 9 December 2018

by Arun Srivastava

After many years India is witnessing the emergence of a farmers’ movement albeit not in the classical form of the earlier farmers’ move-ments or peasant movements of the seventies. But at some level it heralds the message that the farmers are no more ready to be carried away by video-clipped success stories of the capitalist agrarian economy.

It is really a matter of concern that no serious effort was made in recent years to find the reasons for discontent and dissident gripping the farming community. While the farmers and peasants were facing the worst pecuniary crisis, the prevailing scenario was putting a question- mark on their identity. The community, which perpetuated the feudal socio-economic and political order, was being teased by the ruling urban elite.

Socio-economic transformations post-liberali-sation have created a dual-identity crisis among farmers that has manifested in large-scale protests. The latest protests are a political manifestation of the increasing quest for a new identity. This also emerges from a sense of disillusionment from the urbanisation process but also represents the desire for more space for individual freedom. It further displays the aspiration for more city-like facilities. Both the processes of agrarian crises and anti-urban sentiments have produced an identity crisis. As an individual, this quest is driven by one’s sense of loss of self-dignity and respect resulting from economic as well as social reasons.

One thing ought to be understood and realised: the crisis is ”indeed real”. But no effort was made to study in depth and find a remedy. The same mechanism of approaching everything from a singular narrative was applied in this case too.

Structural changes are imperative, but the question remains: who will bell the cat? No one wants to antagonise the dominant rich and capitalist farmer class. In his book, Populism and Power: Farmers’ Movement in Western India, 1980—2014, D.N. Dhanagare maps the history of farmers’ protests from several parts of the country for the last two decades. He tried to suggest that the agrarian crisis in post-Green Revolution India was symptomatic of a structural turning-point for the agrarian economy. The marked feature of this transformation, he explains, was that the producer ceased to be dependent on the landlord and instead was now dependent on the market. Although a majority of the producers in this new regime were subsistence farmers, they nevertheless found themselves in league with the minority, who controlled large tracts of land and cultivated predominantly for the market. In 1993-1994, the monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) in rural India was Rs 281, while the MPCE in urban India was Rs 458. The disparity widened by 2007-2008: The average MPCE in rural India was Rs 772 (a 174 per cent increase over 1993-1994) while that of urban India had increased to Rs 1472 (221 per cent increase over 1993-1994). The gap between rural and urban India increased from 63 to 91 percentage points between 1993-1994 and 2007-2008.

This disparity is partly due to the slow growth of agriculture over the last decade. Between 2005-20006 and 2011-2012, the industry’s average annual growth rate, at constant 2004-2005 prices, was 7.5 per cent, while services grew at an even faster pace, 9.95 per cent. Agriculture growth, in comparison, lagged behind at 3.8 per cent. These figures reflect the government’s lack of interest in agriculture, which has manifested in declining invest-ments—in irrigation, for example—and dimi-nishing subsidies—for fertilisers, for example.

The M.S. Swaminathan Committee advised that the support prices should be 150 above the production cost. But the production cost of large farmers is half of that of small farmers culti-vating less than five acres of land. So large farmers are set to get the benefit. Economically small farming has become unviable. High support prices or high subsidies are not going to help. Small farming consumes more cost and produces little. How much you do, it is not going to be profitable.

Scrutiny of the data of loan waivers revealed the horrifying fact that public and private sector banks have indiscriminately given loans of over Rs one lakh crore to gullible farmers based on their asset value rather than economic viability. In the frantic quest to meet their own priority-sector lending targets, they have given these loans beyond the farmers’ scale of finance or actual value of crop sold each year by individual farmers. The malafide intent of the banks in giving loans to desperate farmers has been established.

The perennial tragedy of Indian agriculture has been the farmers’ inability to break out of the clutches of traders and intermediaries. In 2017 protesting against the exploitation and denial of minimum price on crops the All Inidia Kisan Sabha had taken out a rally in Delhi two days before the Parliament’s winter session. The rally was to draw the attention of MPs towards the agrarian crisis and focus on the issue of farmers’ suicides

The agrarian crisis and the issue of farmers’ suicides were raised during the last two Parliament sessions. But Swaminathan has his own way to explain the reasons for farmers’ suicides. He had foreseen those.

India has too many people cultivating too little land. This would further aggravate. The First Indian Famine Commission (FIFC) had observed that worker-to-land ratio in India was even then more than 10 times that of Britain’s. This was, of course, after nearly a century of de-industrialisation in India.

The recent annual surveys, however, suggest a sharp drop in agricultural employment: from 52.2 per cent of total workers in 2012 to 45.7 per cent in 2015. Two successive monsoon failures are a likely explanation. As growth in the value of output of agriculture slowed from a 14 per cent annualised rate for nearly a decade till 2014 to below five per cent each in the following two years, workers had to start moving away. The Mid-term Appraisal of the 10th Plan revealed that India is lagging behind in achieving the Millennium Development Goals of halving hunger by 2015. Therefore, the decline in per capita foodgrain availability and its unequal distribution have serious implications for food security in both rural and urban areas. The proportion of households below the poverty line was 28 per cent in 2004-05 (close to 300 million persons). However, in 1999-2000, the percentage of population consuming diets providing less than 2400 kcal (that underlines the definition of below poverty line) per capita per day was almost 77 per cent of the rural population. Several studies have shown that the poverty is concentrated and food depri-vation is acute in predominantly rural areas with limited resources such as rain-fed agri-cultural areas.

Some intellectuals hail the decrease of employ-ment in agriculture as a sign of economic growth. But this shift is not helping or promoting the industries. These agri-workers are taking to the unorganissed sector and doing the work of workers primarily at the work site. The need of the hour was to prepare an organised band of trained and skilled agri-workers, who could have eliminated the middlemen. Though not large in number, this new breed of agriculture workers were seen in some areas of MP. The scenario underlined that the process has started but it will take some time.

With nearly half of India’s households seeing anaemic income growth, the demand for mass-consumption products like soaps and detergents weakens. Landless labour moving out of agri-culture is most easily redeployed in construction.

Agricultural distress has become a permanent feature due to the failure of the governments to find a lasting solution. The situation has deteriorated due to the weakening of the local institutions such as community or social networks due to individualisation. Helpless farmers are increasingly pushed to the brink of committing suicides. Since 2004, successive governments claimed to have increased institu-tional credit flow to the agricultural sector through increased budgetary allocation on crop loans. But the fact of the matter is that a substantial portion of the fund goes to the rich and capitalist farmer. The mechanism of availing and getting funds suits them.

Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices. The minimum support prices are announced by the Government of India at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommen-dations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). MSP is a price fixed by the Government of India to protect the producers— farmers—against excessive fall in price during the bumper production years. The minimum support prices are a guarantee price for their produce from the government. The major objectives are to support the farmers from distress sales and to procure foodgrains for public distribution. In case the market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price due to bumper production and glut in the market, government agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price.

The agrarian crisis of course pre-dates Modi, and has to do with the withdrawal of state support from peasant agriculture, and the exposure of this sector to the operations of agri-business and domestic and foreign mono-polists, as part of the neo-liberal economic policy. The point, however, is that the Modi Govern-ment has been fully complicit in this squeeze on the agriculture-dependent population by neo-liberalism. Indeed, as I suggest below, it has been unthinkingly neo-liberal, and for that reason ultra-neo-liberal, to a degree far sur-passing anything we have seen earlier.

The element of the demand for non-agricultural goods and services comes from agricultural incomes. But these have been stagnant in per capita terms over the three Modi years, which means that this source of demand has not grown over this period. The consumer market force is treating agriculture with disdain. With the advent of globalisation it was perceived that the rural India, especially of Bihar, UP, Bengal and Jharkhand, would witness a boom. Development did take place but not of that nature and intensity. If government expenditure had increased significantly, then we could have had a genuine exogenous boost to demand, and hence an increase in the output and employment in the non-agricultural sector. Truly speaking, the total nominal expenditure by the Central Government increased by 6.7 per cent in 2014-15, by 7.6 per cent in 2015-16, and by 12.5 per cent in 2016-17 (RE), when the Pay Commission’s recommendations had to be implemented. The increase in total expenditure proposed in the 2017-18 Budget is again only about six per cent. Over the last decade, as farming became less and less profitable and small and marginal farmers began migrating to cities, rural jobs for full-time women daily-wage labourers in the agricultural sector have shrunk alarmingly. The NREG, that employed many of them in the interim period, has been curtailed sharply by the government that proclaims “sabka saath sabka vikas” as its basic mantra.

In recent times the Modi Government has adopted the most obnoxious policy; only those owing allegiance to the RSS-affiliated body were true farmers and the rest were “anti-social elements”. In fact this had escalated the agitation in western Madhya Pradesh as many farmers felt cheated. Since then, farmers have been holding large demonstrations, demanding higher prices for their produce, including onions and dal. They also want their loans to be waived, like in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, both of which are also governed by the BJP.

It is quite significant to note that in the 1990s, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture. In return for up to £ 90 billion in loans, India was instructed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agricul-tural institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange.

According to the World Bank’s lending report, India has easily been the largest recipient of its loans in the history of the institution, and these conditions form part of the broader World Bank-backed development plan for India that involves the mass displacement of people in order to restructure India for the benefit of powerful corporations.

When a creditor demands changes are made to an economy in this way—changes that will ultimately radically alter the social fabric of a country—it leads many to question just how much ‘independence’ remains. In June, the National Alliance of People’s Movements stated that the real impact of this “dangerous financial institution”—the World Bank—works only to increase the profitability of its shareholders and further the cause of powerful capital.

The plight of the Indian farmers primarily owes to their being held hostage to neoliberal capitalism. Hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to (GM) cash crops and economic liberalisation.

There is a deliberate strategy to make agriculture financially unviable for India’s small farms, to get most farmers out of farming and to impose the World Bank-sanctioned model of agriculture. The aim is to replace the current structures with a system of industrial (GM) agriculture suited to the needs of Western agri-business, food processing and retail concerns.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ entails opening up markets to Western agri-business and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds. This is a ridiculous suggestion. But our rulers, instead of opposing it, have been pushing the farmers to toe this line. They do not desire to improve poor management, inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics.

According to the neoliberal ideologues, foreign investment is good for jobs and good for business. But just how many actually get created is another matter, as is the number of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations.

India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food and agriculture sector with foreign investment in retail, cold storage and various other infrastructure. Agriculture plays a vital role in India’s economy. Over 58 per cent of the rural households depend on agriculture as their principal means of livelihood.

Growth without jobs is meaningless. For the past 12 years, despite its rate being high, India’s growth has been largely jobless, with only 15 million jobs created during the 10 years of the UPA regime. With employment per factory declining steeply over the years, the chances for a revival seem difficult. This is indicative from the data published by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). Invest-ment proposals received by the DIPP for new projects to be set up in 2014-15 showed a possi-bility of creating a maximum of 4.11 lakh jobs.

In the 1990s, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture. India was advised to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agricultural institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops. As the largest recipient of loans from the World Bank in the history of that institution, India has been quite obliging and opening up its agriculture to foreign corpo-rations.

India is on fast track to bring agriculture under corporate control. Amending the existing laws on land acquisition, water resources, seed, fertiliser, pesticides and food processing, the government is in an overdrive to usher in contract farming and encourage organised retail. This is exactly as per the advice of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as well as the international financial institutions.

It is vital to invest in and prioritise small farms. They are, after all, despite the commonly-held perception, more productive per unit land area than large-scale industrial farms. Moreover small-holder farms feed most of the world, not industrial-scale farming. Whatever measures are used, small farms tend to outperform large industrial farms, despite the latter’s access to various expensive technologies.

India’s wrong-headed development model is to eradicate small farms in a country dominated by small farms. Under the World Bank’s instructions, it involves displacing the rural population and moving them to cities to do non-existent jobs. What should be happening is investing in and prioritising small farms that sustain livelihoods. Corporate imperialism, often under the guise of ‘foreign direct investment’, sucks money from India and merely swells the profit margins of foreign capital, which captures and dominates markets for narrow self-interest, with often devastating effects.

The non-availability of remunerative prices to farmers on agricultural produce is a vexed issue and emerges as the prime issue in various research studies wherein farmers are asked to rank production constraints. Will a rise in the minimum support price (MSP) solve the problem? Some critics argue that a rise in the MSP will lead to increase in food inflation, while others claim that it will augment farmers’ income. It is a mistaken notion that the MSP is a remune-rative price. It is actually an insurance price.

Farmers are on the march. This will certainly augur well for India. The ruling elite will wake up to the situation in their own interest. But the agitation may witness more urban Naxalites being thrown in the jails. The BJP’s national leaders or the Maharashtra Chief Minister have no reason to be joyous over it. A new govern-ment may put these BJP leaders in jail if they happen to raise this issue as the Opposition leaders and forces.

In Maharashtra around 2414 farmers had taken their lives in the State between January 1 and October 31, 2017. Considering these issues, among others, the government had announced a conditional loan waiver amounting to Rs 34,000 crores in 2017, but it was not imple-mented as promised. India is a country built on its farmers. The range and expanse of agri-cultural produce are exhaustingly vast, and agriculture, to date, remains the mainstay of the Indian economy. Over 70 per cent of the rural households directly or indirectly depend on it. According to the All India Kisan Sabha, 1753 debt-ridden farmers have killed themselves since June 2017—in the mere span of a year. Let that number sink in. An important and basic question to ask is—what is driving farmers to such extreme measures?

With a 17 per cent contribution to the GDP, the importance of farming as a primary occupation cannot be undermined, least of all be dismissed from the national landscape as a matter of lesser concern. The unfortunate aspect is that this has been happening and the ruling elites are the patrons.

The answer to why farmers are resorting to extreme steps like commtting suicides is simple. Abysmal conditions of work and compensation. According to government data, 52 per cent of farming families in India are indebted. Farming requires labour, land, investment, patience, grit, expertise—in short, everything needed to run a full enterprise. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, a federal data collection agency, roughly a five-member Indian farm household had an average monthly income of $ 99 in 2013. What a contrast! Shahari Babus (urban elite) do not care about the miseries of the rural poor. But while agitating for their rights, the farmers in Mumbai also showed and observed sensitivity. They made sure that their march was scheduled after the rush hours, to not inconvenience the commuters. They were also mindful of the Board exam of the students on the day of the march and made sure they stayed out of the way. The public of Mumbai rewarded this sensitivity with compassion, by coming out in huge numbers to welcome them with water and food.

The M.S. Swaminathan Committee’s recom-mendations for farmer welfare included land reforms, irrigation reforms, productivity growth, access to basic services, setting a minimum support price, introducing safeguards for small and marginal farmers, and addressing the issue of risk overtaking the agricultural profession through better credit facilities and technological empowerment.

Keeping this and the agitation in mind, it is necessary that farmers have assured access and control over the basic resources, including land, water, bioresource, credit and insurance, techno-logy, knowledge management, and markets. The concerns are legitimate, but lack of political will affects the living conditions of the farmers, which do not change. Farmers need to be seen as more than a vote-bank. Their upliftment needs to become a political agenda.

Former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri elevated our farmers to the pedestal of worship. He gave the slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’. The least we can do is to give them what is rightfully theirs and not let this agitation pass away as another news issue.

Modi has been continuously harping on achieving the ambitious goal of doubling farm income by 2022. The agriculture sector in India is expected to generate better momentum in the next few years. But the chances appear to be remote. Had the situation been so rosy, farmers would not have come out on the streets. Thousands of Indian farmers began 10-day protests on November 23 demanding farm loan waivers and higher prices for their produce. Farmers say they want minimum support prices as the farmers’ suicides continue unabated and farm loan debts are thought to be the primary reason behind them. In the last couple of years, it has been suspected that the number of farmers’ suicides has increased greatly. However, in the absence of sufficient data, this hypothesis cannot be verified.

A suicide is the complex interplay of multiple factors. A number of risk factors can coexist and one particular individual can come across all or none of the risk factors identified by us. In our sample, the minimum number of risk factors is two and the maximum is nine. The most common is indebtedness (86 per cent). From all those indebted, 44 per cent are harassed for repayment of loans and in 33 per cent of cases the creditor insists on immediate repayment. Next in importance is the fall in economic position (74 per cent). Indebtedness per se will not lead to the fall in economic position, but if it reaches a stage that will lead to a sale of assets then it can be associated with a fall in economic position. Similarly, a fall in economic position can also lead to greater reliance on credit thereby increasing the debt burden.

When land acquisitions are made with vested interests, the government is far more likely to face resistance. In an article published this year, Manjit Sharma showed how in 2005-06, land acquisition in Punjab sparked violent protests, because the farmers felt that the state was acting against their interests, and in favour of industrialists.

Due to a paradigm shift of policies from land reform to land acquisition, the welfare state emerged as a “venture capitalist”. On the one hand, the state grabbed fertile land forcefully and, on the other, remained insensitive in handling the issues and grievances of the affected farmers. Even after a decade, the acquired land is lying unused. The voice of the affected people is not heard by the establishment. The Chief Minister organises Sangat Darshan programmes in villages, but no one listens to the voices of the affected peasantry. This exposes the political rhetoric of the state. Lack of rehabilitation and absence of alternate livelihood leave people in an economically inefficient and socially suboptimal situation.

A concerted effort is being made by various farmers and peasant organisations in 2018 to float a new movement of theirs but with a different content and texture. The old nature of the movement that defined the character and dynamics of the movement in the seventies is missing. In the seventies a conscious effort was made to distinguish and define the peasants’ agitation and farmers’ movement. While the peasants’ movement symbolised the aspirations and needs of the poor and middle peasantry, the farmers’ movement imbibed the ambitions of the rich and well-off farmers by organisations like the Shetkari Sangathana.

The difference between the two brands of farmers’ organisations in recent years has been virtually obliterated with the change in the class character of the peasantry. Now they have joined forces to demand better support price and implementation of the report of the Swaminathan Commission. The change in the geo-political situation and shift in the agrarian economy, wherein once the agricultural labourers now have a major stake in farming and redefining the nature of ownership, and this has forced them to evolve a new strategy.

Prof M.S. Swaminathan submitted five reports from December 2004 to October 2006. The final report focused on the causes of famers’ distress and the rise in farmers’ suicides. This was a new dynamics. In the past farmers’ suicides did not make a major issue. In the past it was entrusted to the famous litterateur and scholar, Premchand, to put these characters on paper in the form of stories. The NCF submitted four reports in December 2004, August 2005, December 2005 and April 2006 respectively. The fifth and final report was submitted on October 4, 2006. The reports contain suggestions to achieve the goal of “faster and more inclusive growth” as envisaged in the Approach to the Eleventh Five Year Plan.

The NCF recommended that “Agriculture” be inserted in the Concurrent List of the Consti-tution. Land reforms are necessary to address the basic issue of access to land for both crops and livestock. Some of the main recommen-dations included: distribute ceiling-surplus and waste lands; prevent diversion of prime agricultural land and forest to the corporate sector for non-agricultural purposes; establish a National Land Use Advisory Service, which would have the capacity to link land use decisions with ecological, meteorological and marketing factors on a location and season- specific basis.

It is worth mentioning that in order to achieve higher growth in productivity in agriculture, the NCF recommended substantial increase in public investment in agriculture-related infras-tructure particularly in irrigation, drainage, land development, water conservation, research development and road connectivity etc. The governments offered lollypops like issuing Kisan Credit Cards but did not issue even joint pattas as collateral.

The decline in agricultural growth coupled with declining profitability in the agricultural sector, in the face of rapid growth of the non-farm sector, is one of the major concerns. It is sad that no sincere effort is being made to increase the much-needed job opportunities in the farm sector. Little doubt there is a necessity to focus more on the economic well-being of the farmers, rather than just on production.

It is shocking that no government has resorted to clarity on the MSP hike. Their approaches have been of ad hoc nature. Swaminathan at one stage had told the government to keep the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all unannounced kharif crops at least at one-and-a-half time of the production cost. He, however, sought to know whether the proposed hike was the same as the formula for the MSP recommended in 2006 by the National Commission on Farmers, which he headed. The Swaminathan Commission report had recommended a minimum support price of 50 per cent profits above the cost of production classified as ‘C2’ by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. If the income is less than the support price, the government has said that it will make efforts to buy the surplus produced by the farmers.

The NCF has suggested a medium-term strategy for food and nutritional security in the country in order to move towards the goal of universal food security over time; enhancing productivity, profitability, and sustainability of the major farming systems of the country; policy reforms to substantially increase flow of rural credit to all farmers; special programmes for dryland farming for farmers in the arid and semi-arid regions, as well as for farmers in hilly and coastal areas; enhancing the quality and cost competitiveness of farm commodities so as to make them globally competitive; protecting farmers from imports when international prices fall sharply; and empowering elected local bodies to effectively conserve and improve the eco-logical foundations for sustainable agriculture;

Agrarian distress has led farmers to commit suicide. In the last few years, a large number of farmers have committed suicide. Cases of suicides have been reported from States such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. The NCF has underlined the need to address the farmers’ suicide problem on a priority basis. The NCF also calls for affordable health insurance and revitalisation of primary healthcare centres.

It further demands that the National Rural Health Mission should be extended to suicide hotspot locations on a priority basis; setting up State-level Farmers’ Commission with represen-tation of farmers for ensuring dynamic government response to farmers’ problems; restructuring microfinance policies to serve as Livelihood Finance, that is, credit coupled with support services in the areas of technology, management and markets. It recommends low risk and low cost technologies which can help to provide maximum income to farmers because they cannot cope with the shock of crop failure, particularly those crops associated with high-cost technologies like Bt cotton.

The importance of agriculture in the socio-economic fabric of India can be realised from the fact that the livelihood of a majority of the country’s population depends on agriculture. The agricultural sector contributes only about 18 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with more than 60 per cent of population dependence, resulting in low per capita income in the farm sector. Consequently, there is a large disparity between the per capita income in the farm sector and the non-farm sector.

“With almost 40 per cent of Indian farmers ready to quit farming, the situation is simply alarming,” said L C Jain, a former member of the Planning Commission. The Commission wants the government to end the era of farmers’ suicides and to restore pride and confidence in India’s agricultural capability as its foremost task.

The government is hell-bent on making agriculture open for sale to the industry. That is why it also promotes contract farming, which seems only to benefit industry. Contract farming led to savings of nearly 20-30 per cent for the company.

After the M.S. Swaminathan-led Green Revolution, farmers still complain of systemic neglect by the various governments at the Centre and in States. The Census 2011 data show farmers are giving up agriculture for other vocations. Some of the analysts have claimed that the farm dropout rate is 2040 every 24 hours. This means that with every passing day, more than 2000 farmers are moving away from farms.

One development which cannot be ignored is the emergence of a new kind of farmers’ leadership. They are assertive like their fathers and grandfathers, but they are unlike them tech savvy and have a high order of education. They have come to know of the ill-motives of the governments and politicians. They are getting ready to take the latter by the horns. Their rise and growth was witnessed for the first time in Madhya Pradesh during the recent movement.

Of course the turbaned, white-haired, kurta-dhoti-wearing “Tauji” figures control and direct the agitation, but the new breed of leaders are also seen counselling and carrying out their orders. This was an outstanding feature of the current farmer agitation in Madhya Pradesh— how the jeans-clad, smartphone-wielding spear-heads are taking to the scientific mode of protest. The new breed of leaders is still searching for some viable modicum to wage a struggle. Much of the spadework is being done by a band of young, bilingual, stats-savvy and largely apolitical agriculture graduates. It is time the Left must identify itself with their aspiration and cause. It is worth mentioning that Kedar Sirohi, chief of the Aam Kisan Union, who is in his early thirties, and is an M.Sc in agricultural economics and farm management from the Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi University, fiercely opposes the BJP and has mobilised the agitating farmers in Malwa and Nimar regions of western Madhya Pradesh on his own and alone. He is simply pursuing the dynamics of the politics of globalisation.

The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at sriv52[at]

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