Farmers unions across the country have called for a Bharat Bandh to exert pressure on the central government to withdraw the farm bills. With the support of the All India Kisan Coordination Committee, farmers in Andhra Pradesh protested against the three farm bills and the state government’s pro-corporate stance. The Bandh is set to affect various services with bank, taxi and auto unions, joining in support of farmers. Andhra Pradesh farmers have endured a number of challenges in the recent months. In mid-October the damage to Kharif crops due to heavy rains, followed by the impact of Cyclone Nivar on paddy fields has severely affected the farmers in the region. The farm bills only add to the agony. More than 60% of Andhra Pradesh’s total population is dependent on agriculture and the sector contributed 12% to the state’s GDP in 2019-20.
The Andhra Pradesh government not only firmly supported the farm bills in Parliament, it also decided to implement power sector reforms to gain on borrowing margins from the Centre. Farmers in the state are greatly concerned about the increased influence of the corporate sector in agriculture. The farm bills may lead to market manipulation by corporations, while the power sector reforms take away free electricity from farmers in Andhra Pradesh. Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh government reduced allocation to agriculture and related activities from 9.1% in 2019-20 to 6% of total expenditure in the recent budget. Andhra Pradesh farmers lack trust in the state government to stand for their cause.
YSRCP MP Vijay Sai Reddy stated in the Parliament that the YSRCP has taken historic decisions in the interest of farmers, citing the Rythu Bharosa scheme that promised Rs.13,500 financial assistance to farmer families. However, the assistance is inclusive of Rs.6,000 already promised to farmers through the PM Kisan Yojana scheme. The ruling party had promised to provide Rs.12,500 to each farmer family after coming to power, which would bring the total assistance to Rs.18,500 per farmer family. Moreover, farmers in Andhra Pradesh have protested against the power sector reforms that may deny them free electricity for agriculture. Farmers’ unions have voiced their distrust in the government’s promise to provide enough funds to pay their electricity bills.
The TDP voiced the farmers’ concerns to the central government and has sought clarification regarding the farm bills. The lack of clarity regarding MSP and the extent of corporate sectors control over agricultural products are of main concern to the farmers and were brought to the attention of the Centre. The opposition party has also supported the Bharat Bandh on December 8th.