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Farm laws: Where does the Crop of Contention lies?

Shubham Sharma

The recent turmoil against the recently regulated Agriculture and Farm Bills has become the nationwide concern. Farmers primarily from Punjab, Haryana, UP and many other states have reached Delhi to stage protest against these laws.

The CM of Punjab and Haryana also indulged into a Twitter War explaining their stance-

But, what is the intention of these national feeders? What is the need which has forced them to move Delhi miles away from their home? Let’s find out.

The Dispute- Favourable laws

On 20 September 2020, Modi government passed three historic bills from both the houses of the parliament. After the president’s approval, the bill transformed into law on 27 September 2020. These are-

1.The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill 

2.Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill

3.Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 

The crux of these bills can be simplified as –

  • Now, a farmer can sell any of his crops directly in any state or UT of the country. Inter-state trade barrier has been removed.
  • Now, private traders, wholesalers and agro-based companies can also enter the trade market without being registered at APMC that is Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee, commonly known as Mandis in agro-analogy. Farmers can directly sign a contract trade with them without any influence of middlemen. The farmers may step out of the contract whereas the companies can’t if they wish.
  • The limit for stocking of essential commodities like cereals, pulses, onions, etc. have also been removed. Now, these can be stocked.

According to the government, the reforms will accelerate agricultural growth through private sector investment in building agricultural infrastructure and supply chains for Indian farm produce in national and global markets. The bills are aimed at creating employment opportunities and strengthening the economy.

Where the trenches lie?

First of all, let’s understand the concept of MSP in Layman language. MSP or Minimum Support Price is the amount at least or above at which any trader and the government is ought to purchase the harvest from the farmer to prevent his exploitation. Unfortunately, only 6% of our farmers can get a valid rate near or above MSP, others still being exploited.

The bills-cum-laws contain 2 visuals such as a flipped coin. However, the majority of the farmers understand and consider these against themselves. This is due to several obvious concerns.

  1. The major point of conflict includes the non-inclusion of the provision of MSP.  For private players, for whom the market is now opened, they are not bound to provide MSP(Minimum Support Price) as decided by the government to the farmers. The company may offer more or less, it depends on the discretion of the farmer to which buyer he wants to sell his harvest.
  2. Farmers fear that these corporates will play and manipulate the market in the same way as what private telecom companies did with BSNL. For the initial few years, these companies will offer lucrative amounts to farmers. After some time, when the majority of the harvesters will shift towards private players, APMCs may get closed due to no requirement. Now, these big players will start offering lower rates as now they know, farmers don’t have another option!! Something similar happened with Indian -government-owned telecom company BSNL.
  3. The traders can now make the payment 3 days after the purchase of produce. Earlier, it was necessary to do the same on the same day.
  4. Since 86% of the farmers are poor, they believe in leading a hassle-free yet tough life. The new laws contain a provision of Contract Farming. But, as prominent, the majority of these contracts made by the companies are perfectly analysed and then made to sign by the other party, which is always on a losing end. Farmers being uneducated, do not want to indulge in such court concerns later due to lack of resources where the company easily gets over an edge.
  5. The government procurement of food grains may lapse if APMCs collapse. In such a scenario, the concept of MSP will automatically vanish.

Why Punjab, Haryana and UP the worst affected?

India is an agro-based economy, where 2/3 of its population is engaged in the agriculture-related activities. However, the major stinks of protests have been observed in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. This is because these are the states where most food grain procurement is done by the state governments through APMCs. In Haryana and Punjab, 75-80% Paddy and Wheat procurement is done by the state governments. Thus, majority of the farmers are here benefited with MSP. Whereas in other agro-regions of the country, farmers are already exploited, since they sell their harvest to local traders in their village itself. They aren’t having many finances to bear the cost of transporting their crops to Mandis, which are located at far away distances. In Meghalaya, there is a Mandi located at 11,000 km away from the designated village!! 

Thus, the farmer feels better to get exploited by either way.

Also Read- What Delhi is not learning from previous corona tragedies?

The national backbone needs a support 

India’s former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri gave the slogan Jai Jawan Jai Kisan, which is still emphasised and admired by the nation. Farmers are the backbone of our country. Not only the economy, but all our resources will ditch if the national feeders aren’t interested in feeding the nation any more.

Thus, it is pertinent that the centre must not make this subject a matter of their ego. If required, an amendment to the new laws must be made immediately, to avoid further ruckus. Moreover, the opposition must also understand the extremity of the case and most avoid fulfilling their political desires through this agitation. Poor Farmers are also sensible about the COVID threat, but if they still match diagonal to Raisina Hills, then this is definitely humiliating for all of the us-the citizens whom they are feeding since ages.

Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan!!

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