Pakistan: Brewing farmers’ protests

The farmers are organising a tractor march in Lahore to put pressure on the government to accept a list of demands

As time is running out for plantation and growth of Rabi crops, particularly the all-import wheat, growers are planning to re-converge, this time in Lahore. The purpose is to wake the authorities from their deep slumber and resolve the problems the farming community is facing in securing fertiliser, affordable electricity, and diesel for the irrigation tube wells.

Kissan Ittehad, a group of farmers representing smallholders, had earlier held a 10-day protest in Islamabad in the last week of September forcing the federal government to announce a ‘Kissan package’ worth Rs1.8 trillion. But this announcement is so far confined to papers as no concrete practical steps have been taken by the authorities for implementing the package.

This time the farmers are organising a tractor march in Lahore on Tuesday (tomorrow) to put pressure on the Parvez Elahi government, over-engaged in political wrangling involving the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly and subsequent ouster of the incumbent provincial setup, for accepting their demands.

Farooq Tariq, a leader of the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, laments that most of this subsidy goes either to the coffers of the agro-industry or the big landholders, leaving the small farmers high and dry. “The government is playing in the hands of fertiliser manufacturing companies and offering them subsidies. The government should support the low strata of society instead of the resourceful upper classes.”

The government needs to take a series of governance reforms and technology interventions to uplift the financial and social status of the agriculture-dependent populations. There are over a dozen key areas — from legal framework to improving purchasing power of the smallholders enabling them to get farm inputs without being exploited by the market forces — where government attention is required.

“The farming community needs legal protection as the Seed Act 2016 has robbed it of its right to retain a part of its produce as seed for the next season. This is strengthening monopolies of the seed companies. The farmers’ poverty should be taken care of first because a lack of resources makes them vulnerable to exploitation by powerful individuals and institutions,” says Mr Tariq.

He is happy to see that inspired by the Indian farmers’ 13-month movement, a big tractor march will be organised in Pakistan. Quoting the Indian movement’s leaders, whom he recently met at an agricultural moot in Nepal, he says that Pakistani farmers also need a long-term organised movement to get tangible results.

This is an excerpt from the article published on Dawn news. Read the full article here.