Recently, the parliament has passed three bills that aim at transforming agriculture in the country. The new farmers’ bill also aims at raising farmer’s incomes. Out of three, the Lok Sabha passed 2 bills on 17th September 2020.
One was the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020. Then the other one was the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Service Bill, 2020. Earlier in the week, the essential commodities (Amendment) Bill was passed.
The govt. has said that these reforms are going to accelerate the growth in the sector through the Private Sector. They intend to help small farmers. To help those farmers who don’t have the means to bargain for their product to get a better price. In order to help the farmers who can’t invest in technology to improve the productivity of their farms. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that ‘For decades, the Indian Farmer was bound by various boundaries. In other words, the farmers were brutally bullied by middlemen. This bill passed by parliament liberates the farmers from such constraints‘.
The parliament has passed The agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act in 1964. According to that act, it was mandatory for the farmers to sell their produce at government-regulated markets. The farmers needed the help of middlemen to sell their harvest to private- players or state-run companies. The new laws will give farmers more choices to sell their products anywhere in the country according to their will. Earlier, farmers were not authorized to do interstate trading. And in contrast to the earlier situation, this bill intends to help remove these barriers.
The Farmer’s Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
This new legislation is going to create an ecosystem for farmers and traders. They will enjoy the freedom of choice of sale and purchase of their agricultural produce. Also, no taxes will be charged from the sale of their produce. And they will not bear transport costs also. Farmers will now have the freedom to do trading wherever they want. They can now trade in mandis as well as at cold storage, warehouse, farm gates, processing units, etc.
As said above, it will promote barrier-free interstate as well as intrastate trade and commerce. The bill also offers electronic trading in the transaction platform. It will ensure a smooth and continuous trade electronically. It will result in great transparency and time-saving. Moreover, farmers will also be able to engage in direct marketing. This will help eliminate the need for intermediates that will result in the full realization of price.
The farmer’s (empowerment and protection) agreement of price assurance and farm services bill, 2020
This reform empowers farmers to engage with processors, large retailers, wholesalers, and exporters, etc. And, it ensures that the farmers would get the price assurance even before the sowing of crops. In the case of higher marketing prices, this bill will allow farmers to price over and above the minimum price. It will enable our farmers to access modern technology. Also, better seeds and other inputs will be accessible to farmers. It will help reduce the cost of marketing and thereby resulting in an improvement in the income of farmers.
The risk of market volatility will get transferred from farmers to the sponsors. It will protect farmers from the rise and fall of market prices. It encourages research and new technology in the agriculture sector. Farmers will receive their payment maximum within 3 days. In addition to this, 1000 farmer production Organizations will be formed throughout the country. These FPOs will bring small farmers working together. It will ensure beneficial pricing for farm produce. Also, after signing of the contract, farmers will not have to seek traders. The consumer will be able to directly pick up the produce from the farm. There will be no need to go to courts repeatedly if any dispute takes place. They can follow the local dispute redressed mechanism now.
The essential commodities bill (2020)
The bill aims to deregulate some of the commodities such as cereals, potatoes, pulses, onions, oilseeds, and edible oils. According to the bill, all these have been removed from the list of essential commodities. The supply of these foodstuffs can be regulated only under extraordinary circumstances. These circumstances include war, price rise, the extreme scarcity of food, or severe natural calamity. This gives all the powers in the hands of the central government. Therefore, the central government will now control the production, supply, distribution of essential commodities. Big corporations are now free to monopolize and control these commodities.
Farmer’s Reaction Towards these Bills
Farmers are not very much convinced by the government’s promises. In both Punjab and Haryana, farmers are against the three farm bills. Farmers in Punjab have been up with a three-day protest against the bill. Farmers fear that this bill is going to leave farmers to suffer exploitation at the hands of big corporate houses. And the fear is not of small farmers only, marginal, large, and other farmers share the same fear as well. Large farmers feel that they might be able to manage and cope up with it for a few years. But will eventually find it difficult to stand up to big traders and multinational corporations.
Some of them believe that once the parallel print market starts functioning outside the regulated market, there will eventually be no MSP (Minimum Support Price) in that market. They say “The government should come up with another bill making MSP a statutory right of the farmers. They believe that the Centre’s farm reforms would eventually lead to the abolition of the MSP system. It will leave them at the “mercy” of big companies”. This is the reason for the outrage of farmers out there. They went on blocking several roads in Haryana. In Punjab, a near-total bandh took place. The farmers call for the rail roko agitation for 3 days till September 29. Therefore, the movement of trains remained suspended in Punjab on Saturday.
Reason of the farmers’ reaction
Although, the deals that the bill states are financially attractive. But because there are so many terms and conditions attached, it is difficult for a farmer to cope with them. According to farmers, they will become the slave of the company. This fight is not just about economies, but also about their right to grow what they want and their self-respect. It’s quite obvious that the bills are not beneficial for the farmers. And that’s the reason why they’re protesting.
Clearly, the implications of these bills are going to be adverse because farmers need the protection of their interests in the form of regulations. The problem with the bill that puts farmers in trouble is that they are putting farmers into the hands of the private players. That too, without any safeguards. And without any rules, regulations, or discipline in terms of price setting. And it’s a major reason for farmers to worry.
“WITHOUT FARMERS, MANKIND CAN NOT PROGRESS.”
To sum it all up, the livelihood would not survive if farmers would not be there. Any changes should be made while keeping our farmers & their needs as a priority. Their democracy and freedom are what they want. And that’s their right to get what they deserve. This is not something to be taken so for granted. The importance of a farmer’s presence in society is irreplaceable. Their democracy should be given to them by the democratic constitution of our democratic country!
AUTHOR – SUBHASMITA NAYAK
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