Why are Farmers protesting in India?
In September, three farm bills were passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. According to the government, these bills will accelerate growth in the farming sector by removing middleman between farmer and buyer and attracting private investors towards agriculture through a Nation-wide legal framework. But farmers aren’t happy with these bills, as they’re scared of exploitation from the private investigators. So from 26th November, Indian farmers are protesting against these bills on road. So what exactly these farm bills states? Are they good or bad?
“It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in Spring, who reaps a harvest in the autumn.”- B. C. Forbes
“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.”- George Washington
STATISTICS – What Numbers have to Say?
- Approximately 40-50% of Indians are working in the agricultural sector but they only generated 16% of GDP in 2019.
- 82% of farmers are small and marginal.
- Government procures 40-50% of wheat and rice surplus from which 80-90% is procured from Punjab and Haryana.
- Globally India is the highest producer (25%), the consumer (27%) and importer (14%) of pulses.
- In the production of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnut, vegetables, fruits and cotton India is the second-largest country.
DESCRIPTION – Let’s take a Deep Dive
Three farm bills are:
- The Farmer (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.
This bill encourages ‘Contract Farming’ by providing nation-wide uniform legal framework between farmers and traders. According to this, there’ll be a legal agreement between farmers and business owner to fix Quality of product required, Cost of product and date of delivery.
- Private investigators are bound to buy the product at a fixed price even if the price at the time of buying is lesser than fixed in the contract. So it’ll benefit farmers.
- Proper technical guidance, agricultural machinery and equipment should be provided by the buyer.
- Buyer is fully or at least partially liable for any damage to crops due to any means. So farmers are going to be less worried about products.
- As Private investors are legally stronger than farmers, they can dominate farmers by adding some condition.
- If the price of a product is higher at the time of delivery than the initial fixed price, then also farmers will get the fixed price. So they are in the loss in these cases.
- Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) bill, 2020
This law permits farmers to sell their product outside the ‘Mandi’ and ‘APMC(Agricultural Produce Market Committee) yard’. State government can’t force farmers to sell only to them. Already 18 states have permitted to establish the private market outside the mandi. With this bill, anyone who holds the PAN card can be a trader.
- Farmers can sell their product anywhere within the state or outside the state at the best price.
- The drawback of Mandi system is all traders were creating lobby by fixing the same price for a specific product so farmers will remain with no choice but now farmers will have many options available.
- It boosts the idea of “One Nation One market”.
- If farmers sell their product outside the mandi then the state will lose its revenue collected as ‘Mandi fees’.
- As MSP is only applicable in Mandi, farmers are afraid that MSP will disappear eventually.
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020
It removes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions and potatoes from the list of essential commodities but they will be applied again if the price of such commodities goes beyond fixed “Price Limit”. Storage limits on such items are removed, except in “extraordinary circumstances” like war or some natural calamities.
- As the fear of private investigator of extra interference in business operation is going to be removed by this bill, it’ll attract private sector/FDI into farm sector.
- Investment for farm infrastructure like cold storage, warehouses will increase.
- It will reduce wastage of farm produce.
- Private investors can stock commodities it’ll result in creating artificial demand and eventually to high prices.
- Fixed “Price limit” is so high that it’ll never trigger.
- The recent ban on the export of onion creates doubt on its implementation.
These bills can be revolutionary but should be properly implemented by the government. Loopholes should be openly discussed with the farmers. The government should hear the farmer’s perspective and solve the matter by discussing them.
Farmers are scared of contact farming because they’re misinformed that big companies can snatch their land but in the bill, it’s mentioned: “no agreement can be entered with the purpose of land sale/lease/mortgage”. The main problem is confusion about MSP so that should be cleared by the government.
The government can introduce an individual between farmer and company who handles all the contracts without biasedness. So open discussion by both parties is important here.
Author – Vaishnavi Guntoorkar