There is an extensive protest by the Farmers in the country which is the talk of the town. The new farm laws are intended to help small and marginal farmers and favor the interests of farmers. The President of India passed the three farmer bills which are called anti-farmer and in the favor of corporate by the opposition.
The Three Bills are:
- The Essential Commodities Bill
- The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Bill (APMC Bill)
- The Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill.
These bills represent changes in Marketing regulation by allowing the Farmers to sell their produce to whoever they want by abolishing APMC monopolies, with the exit of ‘Mandis’ the farmers will be allowed barrier free trade and will get better prices through cost cutting in transportation and competitive trading channels.
The Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, gives farmers the right to Contract Farming with agribusiness firms, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for the sale of future produce at a price agreed prior-production; this enables safe guards for farmers and an assured dispute reduction mechanism.
The Essential Commodities Act removes commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions and potatoes from the list of essential commodities and will attract private investment with the abolition of stock holding limits.
Why are the farmers actually protesting?
Farmers argue that the bills have lack of regulation and it will shift the power to corporate houses and they will end up getting less for their produce. They fear that these bills will pull apart the MSP (Minimum Support Price) and they will not get an assured price for their crops.
Many argue that Agriculture falls in the State list and Centre should not be interfering in the subject.
The farmers say that these laws are completely throwing them in front of the private wolves and at their mercy because MSP is not promised by the private houses and only comes under APMC mandis, with the abolishment of APMC mandis goes the guarantee of MSP even though the laws say MSP will not be cancelled, there is no guarantee if we read between the lines. The farmers argue that if the APMCs are weakened and eventually shut down MSP goes with them because the private sector has no obligation to offer the MSP and give the farmers a guarantee.
Additionally removing items like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions and potatoes from essential commodities and giving the private sector complete authority of stocking, the farmers lose their guarantee of getting a fair price. The government not regulating the supply of such food items means the chances of hoarding are high leaves the farmers to be manipulated by private players.
The biggest flaw is the assumption that (APMC) Agricultural Produce Marketing Company is a Monopoly and Private is non-existent but the private players use APMC as a reference for their transactions.
The Farm bills are trying to create an alternative to the mandis that encourages tax free trade outside the APMC to private players which will lead to a decrease in the Government procurement or ‘Assured’ sale of their crops.
Farmers demand the withdrawal of the three laws or are willing to settle for a legal framework that protects the MSP. (MSP is the minimum price paid by the government when it procures any crop from the farmers), the farmers suggest that the government ensures that the MSP stays as the floor price and the bidding starts at MSP.
The government saying that removing the middlemen and allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country (outside APMC Mandis) but only offers an MSP in those Mandis makes no sense of ‘Freedom to the Farmers’ and is more friendly to the corporate. The free market system might harm unorganized small farmers.
It’s not only a concern for the farmers any long, it has become a deeper issue that leaves a major percent of farmers to sell their produce at lower prices than the MSP which needs strong institutional arrangements.
Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and UP have been camping at Delhi’s borders since November seeking repeal of the laws and have been into eight rounds of talks so far with the government.
The court acknowledged the farmer’s right to protest as a fundamental right and mentioned that it would not interfere with the protest unless it does not bring damage to life and property of other citizens and is in accordance with the law. The farmer leaders said that they would rather accept death than ‘ghar wapsi’ unless there is ‘law wapsi’.
The SC suspends implementation of farm laws:
The Supreme Court says it will appoint a committee of four people to evaluate the pros and cons of the farm laws and the committee’s findings will decide which provisions are to be deleted until then the SC has suspended the implementation of the laws.
The committee will comprise Bhupinder Singh Mann of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, Anil Ghanwat of Shetkari Sanghatana, Dr Pramod Kumar Joshi and agricultural economist Ashok Gulati.
CJI SA Bobde said, ‘We can’t suspend the laws indefinitely. The suspension will have to run parallel to a process for resolution and we can’t ask the prime minister to go. He is not a party in the case.’
Further, the SC has issued a notice on the Delhi Police Petition seeking to stop the tractor rally planned by farmers on the republic day.