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Farm law politics – will it harm Punjab?


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The gross GST revenue collected in the month of March 2021 is at a record Rs 1,23,902 crore of which CGST is Rs 22,973 crore, SGST is Rs 29,329 crore, IGST is Rs 62,842 crore (including Rs 31,097 crore collected on import of goods) and Cess is Rs 8,757 crore (including Rs 935 crore collected on import of goods). The recovery in GST collections reflects the larger revival in the economy.

India’s economy shrank by 24.4% in the three months ending June 30, 2020 and 7.3% in the three months ending October, 2020 before entering growth territory and trajectory and expanding by 0.4% in the three months ended December 31, 2020.

The government has estimated the entire year’s GDP contraction at 8%, although many experts expect it to do better with reduced contraction of around 4%. But the farmer protest is hurting the nation but government is in no mood to repeal the ‘contagious’ law. It is ready to discuss the law, clause by clause but no repeal of the laws as even farmers are aware that they will benefit in direct selling and they will get higher payments but Congress politics to disrupt the Modi government is affecting their own ruled state badly.

“Loss of revenue due to farmers’ protest has primarily occurred in the States of Punjab and Haryana and at a few plazas in Rajasthan,” the minister said. The loss at Rs 487 crore was the highest in Punjab, followed by Rs 326 crore in Haryana and Rs 1.40 crore in Rajasthan, the farmers’ agitation against new agriculture laws will lead to economic loss of over Rs 70,000 crore in the December quarter owing to supply chain disruptions, particularly in Punjab, Haryana and border areas of Delhi.

Due to the whisper campaigns against JIO, the tower installations were vandalised allegedly by farmers angry over the company’s perceived role in framing three agricultural laws recently passed by the Parliament and notified by the ministry. They vented their anger by snapping power supply, cutting cables of telecom towers, and damaging Reliance Jio’s infrastructure. Back home in Punjab, farmer union members earlier had been involved in disconnecting power supply to Jio mobile towers and disrupted its services in Nawanshahr, Ferozepur, Mansa, Patiala, Moga, Barnala and Fazilka districts of Punjab. JIO lost around 20 lakhs subscribers since word of mouth was spread to hurt interest of both Ambani and Adani.

The installations were vandalised allegedly by farmers angry over the company’s perceived role in framing three agricultural laws recently passed by Parliament. They vented their anger by snapping power supply, cutting cables of telecom towers and damaging Reliance Jio’s infrastructure.

Traders’ body CAIT on Thursday said the ongoing farmers’ agitation in Delhi-NCR has caused a business loss of nearly Rs 50,000 crore. Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) Secretary-General Praveen Khandelwal said the government’s fresh proposal to keep farm laws in abeyance for one-and-a-half year and constitute a joint committee with farmer leaders “is quite justified and reasonable which indicates its willingness to resolve the crisis”.

Now come the role of the foreign powers. In a virtual address to the Sikh community on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau extended his support to the farmers protesting at the Delhi – Haryana borders against the recently passed farm laws. Justine Trudeau, an alumni from UBC said the Indian farmers’ agitation against the farm bills was “concerning” and that his country will “be there to defend the rights of peaceful protest”. India reacted sharply to the Canadian PM’s remarks, calling them “ill informed”.

Trudeau’s support to farmers is part of a political strategy to appease his key Sikh vote bank and is actually hypocritical. Trudeau has more Sikh ministers in his cabinet than even PM Narendra Modi has in his and Manmohan Singh had earlier. Trudeau’s defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan has been a supporter of Sikh radicals. Before the PM’s statement came out, Sajjan had tweeted that nobody should use brutal methods against farmers marching towards Delhi.

Canadian conservative minister Erin Michael O’Toole also tweeted in support of the agitation, and liberal leaders Jagmeet Singh and Jack Harris targeted the Indian government over farmers’ protests. Jagmeet supports the ruling dispensation and Trudeau is in power due to this support. There is immense value of the Sikh votes in Canada, like we have Muslim appeasement factor in India for even municipal elections.

Sikhs are the dominant ethnic group in the eight seats of the House of Commons in Canada, as well as a significant minority group in 15 other seats where they can change the polling equation.
If Trudeau has to win the election, and continue in power he has to win these seats. Trudeau’s track record on Sikh issues has been a concern for India earlier, as he behaves in an immature manner for the sake of his political interest by ignoring radicalism.

His delegation, during the state visit in 2018, included Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted for attempting to murder Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu. Therefore, due to Trudeau’s immaturity, he was given a cold shoulder by the Indian government during his visit when PM Narendra Modi did not go to receive him personally, and instead sent then minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to the airport.

Trudeau also has to remember India’s sensitivities, that Indians and Punjabis have suffered a great deal of bloodletting because of this radical Khalistan movement. India should not get overly concerned when a country is calling out the wrongdoings happening in another country, the way India does in case of Pakistan’s Hindus and Sikhs or US does in the case of China’s Uyghur Muslims. This is a highly globalised world.

But it is important to always call out hypocrisy on the part of public figures, particularly those who claim to have a higher moral standing. Canada’s hypocrisy is well known in the world. The hypocritical part about Canada is that it has consistently opposed India on the agricultural issues at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Canada – along with other developed countries like US, Japan and Australia have challenged India at the WTO meetings when it sought to defend its agricultural programmes like the minimum support price (MSP) for staple crops such as rice, wheat and pulses for procurement to be distributed among the poorest citizens, as part of the PDS scheme.

In July this year, Canada and other countries had questioned India on exceeding the permitted limit on food subsidies given for rice production, also called ‘de minimis’ levels under the WTO norms to farmers in the year 2018-19. The ‘de minimis’ level is determined as 10% of the value of food production.

Canada had also sent 25 questions to India with regard to its farm subsidy and also explained the impact of such food subsidies on global agricultural trade. Subsequently, in September, a slew of questions were posed to India by Canada and other developed nations regarding its multiple agriculture policies. The Indian farmers are demanding what Trudeau’s government is opposing at WTO.

At the Singhu border on the National Highway 44 teeming with protestors, apart from the endless rows of tractors, langars, eye – catching anti national placards, funny demands and hit farmers’ songs are newly and erected and freshly painted stalls of mobile companies to cash in on farmers rushing to change their mobile operator from Jio to Airtel and Vodafone-Idea. They have been using the portability option, which allows a mobile phone user to switch to a different network while retaining their mobile number. The underlying logic that has caught on with the farmers is that the Narendra Modi government has enacted the new farm laws only to benefit Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani’s business interests. The campaign that initially started in Punjab in September picked up pace among people from Delhi and Haryana and culminated in flag hoisting at the ramparts of Red Fort.

This may have led to low confidence in setting up factories and capital expenditure in Punjab. GST collection in Punjab is 1361 crore and during the same period Haryana collected 5709 crore in March 2021. Haryana is producing 4 times as much GST as Punjab. But why? the reason is Diljit Dosanjh songs and communist flags not producing economic growth in Punjab?

Coastal States have the advantage of ports and capital-intensive infrastructure in the form of large refineries and petro chemical units. This advantage helps them to grow faster than landlocked States. Better employment opportunities allow people to send their children to good school and college education, which culminated in high remittance from professionals NRIs to coastal States. Yes, among coastal states, West Bengal, Kerala and Odisha have not achieved economic growth in proportion to their geographical advantage.

I hope Odisha may start receiving higher economic returns from the huge capital investments made by the IOCL refinery at Paradeep Port in coming years. The perception of unfriendly business environment in Kerala and West Bengal is hurting these States. Agitation of farmers is going to hurt Punjab the most in terms of investment. The gap in per capita income between Haryana and Punjab will further increase in coming years.

It’s time to think beyond politics and accept the revolutionary new farm laws and thus benefitting the farmers and local economy.

Rajiv Saxena
Rajiv Saxena
Rajiv Prakash Saxena is a graduate of UBC, Vancouver, Canada. He is an authority on eCommerce, eProcurement, eSign, DSCs and Internet Security. He has been a Technology Bureaucrat and Thought leader in the Government. He has 8 books and few UN assignments. He wrote IT Policies of Colombia and has implemented projects in Jordan, Rwanda, Nepal and Mauritius. Rajiv writes, speaks, mentors on technology issues in Express Computers, ET, National frontier and TV debates. He worked and guided the following divisions: Computer Aided Design (CAD), UP: MP: Maharashtra and Haryana State Coordinator to setup NICNET in their respective Districts of the State, TradeNIC, wherein a CD containing list of 1,00,000 exporters was cut with a search engine and distributed to all Indian Embassies and High Commissions way back in the year 1997 (It was an initiative between NIC and MEA Trade Division headed by Ms. Sujatha Singh, IFS, India’s Ex Foreign Secretary), Law Commission, Ministry of Law & Justice, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of Justice, Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), National Jail Project, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Minorities (NCM), National Data Centres (NDC), NIC National Infrastructure, Certifying Authority (CA) to issue Digital Signature Certificates (DSCs), eProcurement, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MPA), Lok Sabha and its Secretariat (LSS) and Rajya Sabha and its Secretariat (RSS) along with their subordinate and attached offices like Directorate of Estate (DoE), Land & Development Office (L&DO), National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC), Central Public Works Department (CPWD), National Capital Regional Planning Board (NCRPB), Housing & Urban Development Corporation (HUDO), National Building Organisation (NBO), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), BMPTC and many others.


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