FARMERS: THE WINNERS OR LOSERS?
Author: Chiranthana N Yadav, I year of B.A.,LL.B. from School of law, Christ (Deemed to be) University, Bengaluru
Co-author: Aditi Sinha, I year of B.A.,LL.B. from National law university, Orissa
Over the years, the farmers in India have been forced to live a life full of struggles. For years several problems such as the improper implementation of the minimum support price mechanism, interference of middlemen, and lack of proper infrastructural facilities have hindered the growth of India’s agricultural sector and have forced the farmers towards debt and ambit of poverty. In a step taken to address these issues, the Modi government introduced the Farmer’s Bill 2020. This bill is a combination of three bills, namely:
• The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020: This bill allows the farmers to sell their products outside the APMC markets.
•The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020: This bill allows the farmers to enter into an agreement with the companies and sell their produce at a pre-agreed price[i]
• The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill: This bill seeks to remove various commodities such as cereals, oilseeds and other products from the essential commodities list and also remove the stock holding limits.
All these bills were successfully passed by both the houses of the parliament amidst the oppositions put forth by the opposition parties who termed these bills as a ‘death warrant’ for poor farmers. However, the government claims that these bills will give the farmers the freedom to trade across states and empower them to become the traders of their produce.[ii]The bills aim to provide an atmosphere where the farmers and buyers are free to choose the product, they are willing to buy and sell. It also provides for barrier-free inter and intra-state trade under State Agricultural Produce Marketing legislation.
BACKGROUND OF AGRICULTURAL REGULATIONS IN INDIA
Agricultural produce market regulation has been found in India since the British rule. Earlier since the Britishers wanted cheap raw materials such as cotton for their industries back in the United Kingdom, they set up regulated markets in 1886 under the Hyderabad Residency Order. Later, the Berar Cotton and Grain Market Act of 1887 gave the Britishers the power to set up new markets as well as a committee to supervise them. However, it was only in the 1960s-70s that organized agricultural marketing came into existence along with the establishment of APMCs.[iii]Also, according to the ECA, the government had the power to regulate the production and supply of commodities that it thinks to be essential. The bill overrules state APMC and allows the farmers to sell their produce directly to private individuals. It will allow barrier-free trade and also aims to reduce marketing and transportation cost. It aims to boost the income of the farmers by making new technologies available to them. The amendments in the ECA is to attract FDI and create a competitive environment.
DEBATES OVER THE BILL
Just like any other bills in the country, this bill has given rise to several debates and controversies. The people supporting the bill claim that now the farmers will have a choice to offer their products to anybody without APMC disrupting the general flow. The restraining infrastructure of APMC will be crushed and the progressions proposed will take out the middlemen who run APMC. With Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce charge, farmers can sell the products according to their decision. So the issue of agents, which is one of the primary provisos of APMCs will be eliminated. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the bills would advance between state exchanges.
The opposition on the other hand claims that the farmers will be helpless before enormous enterprises during dealings. There are still questions over the manner in which the administration can extensively meditate on the off chance that farmers get cheated from private purchasers. Models over the globe show that when farmers were presented to market influences, their livelihoods diminished as opposed to expanding. Congress party has called the bills “dark law" and "supportive of corporate". Another point of the farm bills passed by the parliament are raising the Minimum Support Price (MSP). MSP is the base cost ensured by the administration to farmers in APMCs.
REASONS FOR FARMERS’ PROTESTS
According to this law, private companies will no longer be under the compulsion to make a written contract for contract farming. Thus, even if the company breaches the terms of the contract, the farmers will not have the ability to prove it.
The bill does not mention that the contract price of the crops should be equal to the MSP if not above it. This has led to the rise of the argument that the new bill will weaken the side of the poor farmers during negotiations with the companies.
Further by amending the ECA, the government is giving up its power to prevent hoarding and controlling inflation. Also earlier if the fArmers felt that the traders were following corrupt practices, they could complain to the APMC officers but now they have to go to a sub-divisional magistrate court which is beyond the reach of the poor farmers.
All these reasons together have spread a sense of panic within the farmers and they have taken to roads to protest against this bill.
The farmers are the spirit of the country and their development and upliftment is the principal obligation to be dealt with by the legislature. Though some people consider the bill to be a positive development giving a greater stage to the ranchers to get the ideal value to their rural item. It will bring progressive changes to the lives of the farmers, a great deal of the accomplishment of these bills relies upon trust and agreement. What will decide the consequences of this most recent arrangement of changes will be their implementation. Many questions as to whether this bill will give more power to the private companies and will it give rise to monopoly remain unanswered. The main demand of the farmers is a guarantee to get remuneration.