Are the farm laws 'death warrant' to beneficiaries?

According to Data; 68% of farmers own less than one hectare of land; only 6% of them actually receive guaranteed price support for their crops

The farm laws that has shaken the whole country for being the largest and longest protest of farmers and has drawn several criticism as well as support from India as well as from the international platform. What exactly the farm bills and how could it affect the interest of the farmers? Are these farm laws are ‘death warrant’ to the beneficiaries?

President Ram Nath Kovind, in September 2020 gave his assent to the three 'Agriculture Bills' that were earlier passed by the Indian Parliament. These Farm Acts are as follows:

1- 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.

These farm laws have created lots of ruckus in the country leading to the longest farmers’ protest in the country in the Delhi-Haryana border followed by several infamous incidents.

So, what exactly these bills are? Are they provide benefits or acts as death warrant to the beneficiaries?

The first Bill Farmer’s produce Trade and Commerce Act allows the farmers to trade in outside trade area such as farm gates, factory premises, cold storages, and so on. Earlier, it could only be done in the APMC yards or Mandis. It allows the electronic trading of farmers’ produce and also online buying and selling of the agricultural product. The State Governments are barred from levying any market fee or cess on farmers, traders and electronic trading platforms for trading farmers’ produce in an 'outside trade area'.

The second act provides for a farming agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce.The pricing of produce and the process of price determination should be mentioned in the agreement. For any additional amount above the guaranteed price must be specified in the agreement. 

On the third act of essential commodities ; the Government of India will regulates the production, supply, and distribution of a whole host of commodities it declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available to consumers at fair prices. The Government can also fix the MRP of any packaged product that it declares an 'essential commodity'. The Centre can add commodities in this list when the need arises and can take them off the list once the situation improves. 

The respective State Governments can choose not to impose any restrictions as notified by the Centre. The Government of India will list certain commodities as essential to regulate their supply and prices only in cases of war, famine, extraordinary price rises, or natural calamities. The commodities that have been deregulated are food items, including cereals, pulses, potato, onion, edible oilseeds, and oils.

What are issues farmers’ faced by aforesaid Act?

Farmers are mainly worried that this will eventually lead to the end of wholesale markets and assured prices, leaving them with no back-up option. In case if they are not satisfied with the price offered by a private buyer, they cannot return to the Mandi. Farmers firstly will get attracted towards these private players, who will offer a better price for the produce, which led government mandis to wind up after a few years, and thus the private players could start exploiting the farmers. The farmer’s want that the mandi system should continue and MSP should be there as assured by government, but farmers are worried about the future. If big corporates will come, the small and marginal farmers will be worst sufferer and thus it would be like ‘death warrant’ to them.

These farm laws have also no provision to regulate the traders. So, any PAN cardholder can procure grains from the markets at wishful prices and indulge in hoarding. There no provision or policy came to address this issue.

They also fear that contract farming under big corporates may results in many problems as proven in history of India and world of non-payment over quality issue and eventually led farmers’ loose land or be in debt.

India’s farmers faced lots of problem mostly small or marginal farmers. According to data published there are only“68% of them own less than one hectare of land. Only 6% of them actually receive guaranteed price support for their crops, and more than 90% of the farmers sell their produce in the market. From low productivity to fragmented landholdings, lack of storage infrastructure and high indebtedness, declining productivity and lack of modernisation issues faced by farmers”. The farmer’s suicide is also a happening topic. The entry of big corporates have not guarantee their future but only few days of relief in initial years.

Several rounds of talk proved to be failure to address to issue. So, instead of reforms, which the farmer’s fear about their future security, the country’s farmer need policies which can address the above issues faced by the farmer is the need of hour.

Ankita Chakraborty

Leave a comment