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Reasonability of the dissent: Farmers’ Protest

Shivam Pathak

Even after 8 round of talks, no outcome whatsoever. Why the protesters are keen on demand to withdraw the bill and not working on amendments?

Government of India introduced Three Farm bills on 14th September in Lok Sabha and it received the presidential assent on 24th September. Since enaction, these laws have received a great dissent in the form of farmers' protest. The law includes three acts:

  1. The Farmers’ Produce trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020.
  2. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.
  3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The bill aims to provide a market liberty to farmers i.e. a choice for them to choose their buyer, a legal framework to contract farming with dispute resolution mechanism and a removal of stock limits on foodstuff except under “extraordinary circumstances”. But it’s been now almost 2 months that a huge proportion of people-related to agricultural sector, particularly from northern belt of Punjab and Harayana have been protesting against these Farm laws. This bill intends to remove the role of mediators in the sale and procurement of farm products by directly linking the producer and purchaser of crops. Thus it would not be wrong to consider that these middlemen would be the most to suffer and could be fueling the protest. For a long time, these mediators have been gaining substantially by cutting down farmers’ income which eventually leads to poor condition of farmers in India. It is due to these intermediaries that farmers don’t receive the true price for their produce and in many states are under a huge debt which forces them to commit suicidal attempts. So, when a bill like this gets introduced, which purposes to put an end to a decade long involvement of intermediaries and such agents, it will quite certainly receive such dissent.

Also, there are factions, trying to give this protest a violent form by damaging-private as well as public resources. This was recently seen in the state of Punjab when a certain mob vandalized around 1500 mobile towers and disrupted electricity supply in many regions. It gets more alarming when disinformation is spread across farmers as well as people throughout the country to induce the protest further. It is evident when leaders sitting in opposition come up with invalid apprehensions like- APMC Act is going to be scrapped off, Capitalists would take over the agriculture sector or MSP provisions would be terminated. But, no such mentioning is there in the bill. No intention of shutting down APMC mandis has been cited and government is keen on giving a written assurance on MSP. But, intentions of protesters fall under doubt when they do not hand over a detailed list of their demands to authority, instead they remain persistent on repealing the bill. This is because, no further amendment in the current law would allow the intermediaries to re-enter the market and thus they continuously demand for complete withdrawal.

It’s true that the bill lacks certain provisions. For instance- no MSP guarantee is there for selling produce to private buyers. It would enable the buyers to arbitrarily fix prices and farmers might get bound to sell at lower prices. This makes it mandatory for government to extend MSP assurance in case of private entities too. Another concern is related to Essential Commodities Act which delimits stockholding limits. Government aims to give farmers an option of stocking their produce and allows them to sell as per their convenience when market prices are high. On the other hand, farmers consider this to be in support of big capitalists where they could fill their warehouses with the foodstuffs purchased from them. But the real point in all this conflict remains unseen, that, whether the stockholding is done by farmers or businessman, it will be the ordinary man to bear the cost of price hike.

In the ongoing talks between farm unions and ministry of agriculture, Supreme court on Monday has started hearing on this case. Instead of constant push for repealing the farms laws, it is expected from farmers’ representatives to pen down some reasonable demands and government should also lay focus on reaching at some conclusive agreement in the near future.

 

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