Almost 40% fear new laws will end state-run markets
More than half of Indian farmers oppose the three farm reform laws passed by Parliament last month, while only 35% support them, according to a new survey in 16 States conducted by Gaon Connection Insights. Almost 40% expressed fear that the new laws will end state-run markets and government procurement at minimum support prices, and almost 60% are in favour of a legal guarantee for MSPs.
Despite the widespread opposition to these laws, almost 44% of respondents said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was “pro-farmer,” while only 28% said it was “anti-farmer.” When asked about whom the Modi government supports, however, about 35% of those surveyed thought that it supports farmers, while 30% felt that it supports private companies and multinationals, and 15% said the government supports middlemen and traders.
Gaon Connection did a face-to-face survey of a sample of more than 5,000 farmers, three-fourths of whom own less than five acres of land, in 53 districts across 16 States between October 3 and 9. It found that state-run mandis are the most popular medium of produce sale across the country (36%), followed by private traders (26%). Currently, only 2% sell to corporates.
Geographically, the north-western States of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh which have the highest proportion of sales in state-run markets (78%), also have the highest rates of opposition to the news reform laws (77%).
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In the eastern States of Assam, West Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, only 39% opposed the laws, but even fewer (36%) supported them. A quarter of respondents in the east responded “can’t say.” A similar lack of awareness or interest was also evident in the southern region, where 26% of respondents gave the same answer.
The west was, however, the only region where supporters of the new laws (52%) narrowly overtook the opposition (48%). In the north, which includes the poll-bound State of Bihar, along with Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, there was a 53:47 ratio against the laws.
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Almost 60% of those opposed felt that the laws would force them to sell at lower prices in the open market, with 38% fearing increased dependence on private companies. About a third said the government wanted to end the MSP system, and 32% said farmers would turn into bonded labourers due to contract farming.
Those who supported the laws said freedom to sell their crops (47%) and freedom from middlemen (35%) were their major reasons.