The history of Panjab Farmers’ Union is as old as the state itself. The Palsa district was under the British and Punjab was one of the most densely populated areas in India, with more than a million people crammed into an area of thirty-two square kilometers. The Palsa district, and the whole of Punjab were under the control of the Sikhs, whose rule was anything but democratic. So it was not surprising that the agricultural workers there went unionized and got together in the form of the Panjab Farmers’ Union.
But what do we mean by a Panjab Farmers’ Union? The farmers, who were the backbone of the economy in Punjab they formed the backbone of the state through their labour. Most of the panjabi farmers, both urban and rural, live in the cities of Delhi, which is not surprising given the great economic potential the state has. So to stay put and make their demands for higher share of the farm yield or better access to their existing markets, they have opted to form a body, which can represent and help them collectively as a block. They can meet together to discuss issues that are important to them collectively. These are issues like workplace conditions, pesticides used, pesticides harmful to crops, increase in the price of the crop due to excessive accumulation of debts owed by the farmers to the banks, rise in electricity and water bills and the lack of proper transport infrastructure and infrastructures in rural areas.
Many of these issues are related to the big industries set up in the state like the steel milling industry, textile industry and the cement industry. The big cities of Delhi and Punjab are well connected nationally and internationally through rail and air. The ganja farmers feel that without proper help from the state, they will not be able to survive as a class.
The ganja farmers are worried about their future because of the shortage of finances. They do not have sufficient savings to pay off the debts accumulated in the past so they are looking for some form of help to survive. The central and state governments promised the ganja farmers that they would compensate the losses suffered during the period of harvest due to bumper wheat crop. However, the state government has not been fulfilling its promise to the ganja farmers. They are just trying to run away from the issue.
The main reason behind the non-payment is that the state and central governments are indirectly paying the arthiyas. If the arthiyas did not survive then the banks would have not received any payments from the farmer. Therefore, the state is trying to claim that the arthiyas have been paid but the farmer cannot prove that. This is why the farmers are demanding money from the state government. However, the state government has already provided compensation to the erstwhile borrowers.
The main challenge for the ganja farmers is to get the state government to provide proper permission and support in the harvest season. It is true that the state has already released a lot of the share of the wheat production to the farmers but there are certain states where the conditions are still not favorable. The arthiyas will be benefited if they can get a fair price from the state or federal government. The main problem is that the federal government is just trying to avoid the wheat crisis and does not have the will power to secure a fair price for the panjab crop.