The Parliament has passed 2 farmer bills in 20th September. The monsoon session has witnessed some dramatic movements. Harsimrat Kaur, the lone minister of BJP’s long standing ally Shiromani Akalidal has quit the cabinet opposing the farmer bills, The opposition and many farmer unions have threatened to protest till the controversial bills are withdrawn. The indefinite protests are going on in states like Punjab, Haryana etc. What exactly these bills are? Why is this controversial? Come let’s have a check.

Here are these three bills:

The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) bill 2020. Which provides the opening up of agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified APMC ‘s (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee). As per this bill, a license is not required to trade in farm produce, anyone can buy directly from farmers.  These provisions forbid state APMC ‘s from collecting the market fee, cess or levy taxation for trade outside APMC’s. It is evident that there will be no barrier for interstate trade in the forthcoming future. Simply, the opening up of a wide competitive market.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) agreement on price assurance and farm service bill, 2020 – A farmer can enter into contract with a corporate directly at a mutually agreed price accordingly. Which will bring uniformity into contractual farming rules and State APMC’s act.

The Govt has decided to remove cereals, pulses, edible oil, oil seeds, onion and Potatoes from the list of essential commodities with the amendment of Essential Commodities Act. That is providing uninterrupted provisions for production, storage and distribution of these goods.

We might all feel that these are pro farmer ordinances which will empower farmers to enter into farming agreements with private players prior to the production for sale of agri- produce. Really! Are these a revolutionary move in the agricultural scenario which is going to bring due independence to the farming community?  Go to the deeper sense of provisions; aren’t these bills are really bulldozers having the capacity enough to crush the small and marginal farmers under its giant corporate wheels?  Come let’s have a critical analysis!

Every state has its own APMC’s. The agricultural market is controlled by APMCs. It is the local markets under them that set the prices, license the traders, provide the necessary infrastructure and provide the opportunity for the farmers to sell their produce with the help of intermediaries. By preventing the state Govt from levying any kind of fees or Surcharges, the central govt is opening up all kinds of opportunities to the corporates and pave the way for the gradual disappearance of APMC’s in the competition for they could come up with more adorable attractive offers to web farmers as how Jio did in the beginning, the so called strategic movement to erase competition in the market; the commission agents will be rendered jobless. The central Govt is thereby preventing the State govt from adopting appropriate regulations and policies for each state’s agricultural sector. This legislation may be a prelude to the abolition of the Minimum support price and the chopping down of poor farmer’s negotiation power.

By implementing contract farming, farmers will be forced cultivate as per the will of large-scale corporates. Farmers avail finances from the commission agents to sow the crop and return it when the product reaches the market. Poor farmers who lose all public sector assistance in seed and fertilizers procurement will have to rely on corporates. When sales do not have to depend on local markets, profit will become only motive for choosing crops. Despite being in Domestic fields priority will be given to export potentials and Urban markets. Once the private grain markets are established the traditional grain markets will become history. There will be a loss of agricultural employment in rural areas with the advent of contract farming for corporate companies can create a centralized work force which will reflect in the urban migration and a exacerbation of current imbalance. Large land owners, who now lease land to small farmers will prompted to give their farm land to corporates to make more profit will exacerbated the prevailing imbalance in the ownership of agricultural land in India. Small farmers and agri laborers will be eliminated at once. Although the Price Assurance Bill promises to protect farmers from exploitation of crop prices, the bill makes no mention of a mechanism to ensure this price.

With the removal of pulses, potatoes, edible oils etc. from the list of essential commodities, corporates will be able to stockpile them in such a way that they can determine the market price as they wish. This can lead to artificial shortages and large-scale inflation in agricultural products. With the amendment of ECA, international monopolies will take over the Indian agricultural sector. In other words, the Modi govt is legalizing hoarding and black market. Corporates with the technology and godowns to store products for a long time will make the harvest of the crop, the season, the cycles and the price difference all myths. Corporate agricultural production driven by rich consumers and exports threatens India’s food security. The rural people are marginalized even now in the face of rising food consumption. Corporate farming derives its export profit from such artificially reduced domestic consumption.

The state generally has the sole right to legislate on matters stated in the State List of theConstitution. Agriculture and Market scheduled on the 14th and 28th list of state, was legislated by the Central Government without the permission of the State Governments is truly an encroachment to the Federal system and the mere representation of the distraction of Cooperative federalism. The removal of marketing fees will significantly affect state finance when the state finances are going through the worst possible situation and such attitudes from the central govt are worrisome at a time when concerns are mounting over the non-receipt of GST compensation.

From now on, the remuneration of the farmer and the price to be paid by the consumer will be decided by the international and domestic monopolies. Landowners in India will become their mere tenants. The government will be just spectators. With the shift away of Govt from food procurement, public distribution and systems like FCI will disappear. This legislation will pose a serious challenge to Kerala, which is dependent on other states for food. What the government is actually doing here is washing away all responsibilities by throwing farmers into the free market to big corporates. This law, which eliminates price controls and support prices for agricultural products, is intended to help private monopolies. With this, the legal protection that the farmers used to get is going to disappear. Contract farming is a legislation to convert farmers into food producers at corporate prices.

It is saying that, if there is a market outside the APMC there will be no intermediaries and if it is true that the loss on the farmer’s dividend will be reduced then it should happen in the case of milk, Sugarcane and Poultry farming. But that did not happen. Bihar is a state that limits the working of APMC which made far reaching and unbearable consequences in the lives of farmers. They were forced to sell their products at a rate 25% less than the MSP that was provided earlier. In Gujarat, Pepsi tried it’s hand in agriculture getting in touch with farmers throughout the state only to end up in court following issues regarding production and profit. Can’t we see the irony here!

The existing agricultural production and marketing system in India is not that perfect now. But, the move to hand over the agricultural sector to corporates In its name needs to be strongly opposed. There are only 7000 Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees in India. In most areas, farmers do not have the means to sell their produce and get a fair price. Co-operatives of farmers and agricultural workers and their benefits are in high demand at present. And the breakdown of “Landlord relations“ one of the root causes of the agrarian crisis in India. This bill eliminates all such possibilities. What is more inevitable at this time is  ” to establish farmers market with adequate infrastructure and supporting large villages and small towns to enable the farmer to bring his/her produce and freely market the same – (Congress Manifesto )” other than transferring of power from APMC to Private bodies.


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