Debate Topic: Farmer’s Bill 2020 (India)
The recently introduced amendments in the farm bills have triggered various protests. Many are in favor, however, a majority of the public is not in the support of accepting these changes.
The Indian Parliament introduced three bills by aiming at some reforms in the agricultural field. In India, more than half of the population is employed in the agriculture industry. The contribution of this sector in the country’s GDP is nearly one-fifth of the total contribution by all numerous sectors.
Framers have a strong objection to these changes and are indulged in intense protests in states like Punjab, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh. Even though the spread of deadly virus( Covid-19) is not stopping them to show their aggression.
But what exactly is happening? If these acts are implemented for the good of the farmers, then why have these protests erupted?
Let us understand the insights of the bills and their effects on agriculture.
Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill‘, 2020
This law endorses the ‘One Nation- One Market’ concept. According to this law, the farmers now have the complete authority to sell their crops anywhere within the country.
Earlier, farmers were not allowed to sell their productions anywhere other than government-approved mandi’s called ‘Agriculture Product Market committees’. The purpose of APMCs was to protect farmers from getting exploited and receive the deserving rate for the crops. Information regarding prices is also told by APMC’s through MSP (Minimum Support Price). The Agriculture Product Market committees and MSPs are regulated by the government. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce and do away with the need for physical premises of APMC markets.
Unfortunately, middlemen too had control over the prices in APMC. However, the new bill restricts the function of APMC laws and introduces a resolution mechanism for buyers and farmers so that any dispute does not occur.
This does not mean that farmers cannot go to APMC anymore. They still have the choice to approach them and sell their products and avail the MSP support.
Farmers in different states have diverse views regarding these laws. In Punjab, Haryana, and M.P. farmers only rely on MSP. However, In Bihar, Kerala, and Manipur, farmers already do not follow the APMC system at all.
‘Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill‘, 2020
This bill encourages the legal contract between the buyers and farmers. This bill ensures that the producers get standard price assurance from the buyer even before the product is ready.
Contract farming is beneficial in few scenarios. For example, when big corporations buy a specified kind of crop from the buyer, they can get in touch with the farmers who can produce that particular crop at a large scale and do the agreement with them. It will be a win-win situation for both of them.
Then where does the problem lie?
Assuming that in India, most of the farmers do not owe a huge land space and they cannot meet the requirements of these big buyers. Here is the probability that the huge corporations can exploit the producers who possess little land by proposing unbalanced contracts. Farmers have the fear that this act can turn the farmers into slaves.
Essential Commodities(Amendment) Bill‘, 2020
This proposed act aims to remove some daily use commodities such as cereals, onions oilseeds, pulses, and potatoes from the list of essential items.
Moreover, it also will only allow stock holding of such commodities under some exceptional circumstances for example famine, war, natural calamity, and extraordinary price rise. In terms of the imposition on stock limit based on price, if there is a 100% rise in the retail price of horticultural production and a 50% surge in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items ( like pulses, seeds, oils). This legislation has the purpose of attracting private investment or FDI into the farm sector simultaneously bringing stability in price.
What do opposers say: The one drawback this act can bring is the freedom to big companies to accumulate the commodities. With the help of this, they will dictate their terms to farmers which can be against farmers.
It is surprising that why the farmers were restricted to sell their crops out of the Mandies to date. The main cause of the protesting farmers is that they feel they will be bound by the contracts set by powerful investors that would be beyond the understanding of poor farmers in most cases. Also, they feel that they will be exploited and won’t be getting a worthy price for their crops. The farmers who are not equipped with big agricultural farms are in dilemma due to not be able to produce up to the expectations of the MNCs.