Two forms of ‘Mann Ki Baath’  are being heard in the country. One is the anguished ‘Mann Ki Baath’  of farmers and migrant labourers. The other is the ‘Mann Ki Baath’ that resembles the speech of a primary school boy delivered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Farmers all across the country are hitting the streets and protesting. In Punjab, normal life has been thrown out of gear with continuous agitations and ‘rail rokos’. Mumbai has come to a standstill. In Karnataka, farmers’ organisations have observed a bandh on September 28. But people’s heartfelt anguish and their clarion calls for help are not reaching the government. Amidst protests, anti-farmer and anti-labour bills are getting approved.

In this situation, enacting a political drama in the state, the Opposition, especially, the Congress moved a no-confidence motion against the BJP government of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa. Although it was clear that the Congress could not unseat the government, it is a mystery why the Congress came forward with such a move. Other than providing an occasion for a discussion on the provisions of various anti-farmer laws that the government wanted to push ahead, the Opposition did not gain anything out of this. It also resulted in the postponement by at least six months the attempts of some BJP rebel leaders to overthrow the state government and replace Yediyurappa. In a way, this no-confidence motion provided the much-needed temporary relief for Yediyurappa. Though conspiracies are being hatched within the party against him, the BJP high command does not seem to have the strength to unseat him at this juncture.

In the midst of farmers’ outrage and protests, the Prime Minister who is unveiling various Bills has stated that ‘farmers will play a major role in ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharath.’ If the farmers were to indeed play such a role, why is the government outrightly rejecting the farmers’ demands and enforcing laws that are anti-farmer in nature? There is no answer to this question in Prime Minister’s ‘Mann ki Baath’ . The present laws will push self-reliant farmers to the corporate whirlpool and destroy their self-confidence. The agriculture Bills that the Prime Minister has introduced for farmers are not in support of farmers becoming self-reliant or ‘Atmanirbhar.’ Instead these laws mark the highest form of self-deception.

It is said that the Centre’s three agriculture Bills would help farmers sell their produce in the open market without any hindrance. The government is also saying that these Bills would help the produce of farmers reach national and global markets by encouraging private investment in boosting basic infrastructure. It would enable farmers to sell their produce outside APMC and help them sell their produce at competitive prices. Ironically, cereals, crude oil, onions, potatoes and others have been kept out of the list of essential items. This means that these items are out of the scope of price regulation. Besides, excluding emergency situations, the limit on private institutions hoarding essential commodities for future sales has  been removed. Farmers have been so far selling their produce to APMC through commission agents. But with the new law, commission agents and APMCs will lose their significance. Eventually, the practice of the government declaring minimum support price for farmers will end. The BJP assured in its 2014 Election Manifesto that it would increase the support price to 50 per cent of the cost of cultivation. But, it is ironical that the party has forgotten this promise after winning. Now, the possibility of implementing the government’s promise about providing minimum support price is also reduced.

The country’s economy has been destroyed with the complete failure of the various programmes of the government. But for a few big corporate players such as Adani and Ambani, the industry is facing a grim situation that might push several mid-level entrepreneurs towards suicide. In this backdrop, Prime Minister Modi’s lessons on self-reliance, ‘Atmanirbharatha’,  in defence of his government’s policies is more like the proverbial last nail on the coffin of the country’s economy. 

The decision to remove the limit on hoarding farm produce is beneficial to  corporate giants who will then be free to control market prices as they wish. Though the government has stated that farmers can benefit from an unregulated  open market, it has not made any distinction between big farmers and small farmers. It is not possible for small and marginal farmers to compete with big farmers in a free market. The government has started to corporatize the agriculture sector. As the farmers will be engaged in business in the open market, it will create problems in the country’s public distribution system, adversely affecting people’s right to food. Food grains have to be purchased from big corporate houses for public distribution at a higher price. It is therefore important that the present model of purchasing farmers’ produce and selling through APMC be reviewed and a situation created where farmers are provided appropriate support price as their right and not as an act of generosity. The government must show some gratitude to the farmers for their service to the nation by providing a minimum support price to their  produce. If farmers have to participate in Modi’s ambitious goal of Atmanirbharatha or self-reliance, he should first understand the concept of self-reliance.  Otherwise,  ‘Mann Ki Baath’ will be reduced to ‘Monkey Baath’ and the economy would remain caught in a log-jam.

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New Delhi: The suspension of scheduled international passenger flights has been extended till November 30 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said on Wednesday.

"However, the international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis," the Indian aviation regulator said in a circular.

The scheduled international passenger services have been suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under the bilateral 'air bubble' arrangements with selected countries since July.

India has formed air bubble pacts with around 18 countries, including the US, the UK, the UAE, Kenya, Bhutan, and France. Under an air bubble pact between two countries, special international flights can be operated by their airlines between their territories.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) circular also mentioned that the suspension does not affect the operation of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by it.

The scheduled domestic passenger flights resumed in India on May 25 after a gap of two months amid the pandemic situation.