In September 2020 Indian parliament passed the Indian agriculture act 2020. The Indian agriculture act which is also known as the farm bill consists of 03 bills. Farmers feel that these bills are against their interests and that’s why Indian farmers are protesting against farm bills?
These three bills are namely:
- The Farmers produce trade and commerce ( Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020
- Farmers ( Empowerment and protection) Agreement on price assurance and farm services act 2020
- Essential commodities ( amendment) act 2020
Although after relentless opposition from farmers, Supreme Court of India stayed these laws. Supreme Court of India also appointed a committee to look after the grievances of farmers but most of the farmers unions oppose this committee and they want all these farm laws to scrap immediately.
Let’s talk of these farm bills one by one and why Indian farmers are protesting against these bills?
Let first understand what are these farm laws:
The Farmers produce trade and commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020
This act state that now farmers can sell their produces, outside of trade areas which is known as mandis in India.
Private Player has now more freedom to buy agricultural produce through electronic trading and other means. It also state that state government cannot leavy any fee on farmers those trade their agricultural produce outside of trade area i.e. mandi.
Now, platform for electronic trading and transaction can be established by companies and farmer organizations to facilitate buying and selling.
Farmers ( Empowerment and protection) Agreement on price assurance and farm services act 2020
This farm law talks about contract farming. This gives a legal framework for Indian farmers for entering into contracts with big private companies. This act also mentions, the mechanism how to solve dispute if it arises.
There is provision of dispute solving three layer mechanisms and farmer can approach sub divisional magistrate along with conciliation board or appellate authority.
Essential commodities (amendment) act 2020
This farm law gives freedom to stock holding of food stuff except under extraordinary circumstances. In this farm law, government has gone away previous adopted strict policy of not allowing anybody to store unlimited food stuff in the storage.
Impact of these farms bills & farmers protest in India
Immediately after passing these bills farmer protests started in Punjab and Haryana and then spread to many parts of the country.
Now thousands of farmers have been camping out on highway mainly on Delhi Haryana and Uttar Pradesh border.
Why Indian Farmer protesting against these farm bills??
To understand it fully, we have to be a farmer or think like a farmer.
In India for farmers land is not just a piece of land but a thing which they love like their mother. They have memories associated with that land. Most of the farmers so much attached to their land that they treat it, integral part of their life and even thinking of losing it give them night mare.
Most of the farmers feel that they and their children have no future if they lost their land or income from land.
Why Framer protest is more in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh:
The reasons for more intensive farmer agitation in Punjab and Haryana state because Mandi system is more prevalent in these states. Infrastructure of mandi is quite good in both these states.
Overall 6 % crop is sell on Minimum support price (MSP) in India and most of the sale on MSP is happened only in these states.
Due to the near proximity of capital of India-Delhi with these states Protest are more visible and government and media cannot hide these protests.
Let’s start discussing the main reasons why farmers protest against these farm bills??
Farmers has no trust in private players:
Farmers have no faith in corporate sector that they will provide them fair deal. Farmer feel that private companies will initially offer them good prices of their crops but once govt. trading places which is called mandies will collapsed these private companies will start looting and exploiting them .
Why farmer think like this??
This is because; there are lots of examples already available in the public domain. They cited the example of the JIO company which is run by big corporate. This company offered voice calls and internet data almost free of cost and when most of the Indian public shifted from other networks to JIO network company started charging and now people have no option but to pay for their services.
Past experience of Indian farmers
When India got freedom from Brittan, India was not able to produce enough food and dependent on import from other countries. Farmers of India particularly from Punjab and Haryana state taken it challenge, work hard and bring India to this position where there is no requirement India to import food from other countries.
In spite of all the hard work by Indian farmers, they stay as poor. The income of other professions increases many folds but very little changes as much as farmers are concerned. Their income increased but very less compare to other professions. This is why Indian farmers feel that if these farm laws implemented their life will become more difficult and they will be exploited. Past experience of Indian farmers is the main reason why they do not trust the government as well as private players and why they are protesting so fiercely against these farm bills.
The Indian farmer has no storage facility for farm produce:
Farmers feel that at the time of harvesting as they have to sell their products as soon as possible these private companies will find golden opportunities to exploit them. Suppose if private companies do not buy or buy very low quantities of crop produces, then it definitively lower the rates of the crop. Farmers are worried that due to lack of storage facilities they will be forced to sell their products at any price and this is another big reason why Indian farmers are protesting against farm bills?
According to Farmers Governments intention is to go away from MSP:
To protect from exploitation Government declare every year minimum support price for crops. This is a guaranteed price in which government will buy the crop produce, incase private player do not offer prices for crops for more than this and try to buy crop below the MSP Prices.
Now farmers has apprehension that government want to go away from this MSP system.
MSP is implemented in only few states and most of the mandi system only prevailed in Punjab, Haryana and western U.P.
Only about 6% crop is purchased through mandies.
No legal guarantee of Minimum support price is one of the biggest reason Why Indian farmers are protesting against farm bills?
Experience of other states where there is no Mandi System
Barring Punjab, Haryana and western U.P. most of the other states are not covered under MSP system. If you compare other states of India with Punjab and Haryana you will find that farmers of these states are poorer which indicate that with some short comings in mandy system, still this system is more successful.
Most of the farming states where the mandi system is not prominent are migrating to Punjab and Haryana working as a daily worker. In some cases Neighboring state farmers coming to Punjab for selling their agricultural produce as they are not getting even the minimum support price in their state. These somehow convinced Indian farmers that these new farm bills are already failed one and chances of getting better prices for their farm produce are less. This is again one of the reasons that Indian farmers are against this farm bill and protesting against farm bills?
Swaminathan report on minimum support price:
Farmers always complaint that minimum support price which is declare by government is quite low considering their cost of production. According to them prices of everything has increased many fold but prices for their crop produce are increased just a few percent. Machineries like tractors and other implements get too costly. Prices of Diesel and petrol are at record level.
To make a basis for declaring Minimum support price government appointed a committee which is called swaminathan committee.
This committee given its report and ask government to increase minimum support price substantially.
Now there is a pressure from farmers unions to adopt this committee report and implement it but farmer feel that government is no mood to implement it as this will be a big financial burden on government.
Not only this if this report implemented , pressure from farmers and farmers union of other states will intensified to implement minimum support price in all over India, which increase financial burden on government.
Now farmers and farmers union feel that to get rid from this financial burden government want to run away from this system and that’s why government bring these three new farm laws.
Farmers concern that government want to Abolish mandi system
In India there are agricultural markets which work under state government. These agricultural markets which are known as mandis in India, regulated by produce marketing committee act. This is also known as APMC Act. These are the designated places where sale of agricultural produce sold through auction. Farmers bring their produce to these market places (Mandis) and sold here. In these mandis farmers has to pay some commission to agents or service providers.
Although Government is trying hard to convince farmers that with these new farm laws, MSP system will stay and Mandies will keep on working. But most of the farmers are in this view that if these laws implemented, mandies will not be able to survive and collapsed within few years. Farmers see no future without mandi system as it becomes somehow an integral part of farmers, especially in Punjab and Haryana and that is the reason why these Indian farmers are protesting against farm bills.
For this they give following reasons:
- As per new farmers laws farmers can sell their crop to private player, for which they have to pay no commission. As there will be no commission outside of agricultural markets, private player will be in advantageous situation and pay more to farmer. Hence, Farmers contention is that due to this disparity, in few years mandis will disappear and collapsed and then private player will start exploiting farmers as now there is no more mandi and they have to accept whatever price private players will offer.
- Due to no commission available, agents will disappear from mandis.
- Well established infrastructure will be now, for no use and will be converted for other purposes because without any income coming, sustaining these infrastructures is almost impossible.
- Once mandis will disappear, there will be no meaning of minimum support prices and now farmers will depend entirely on private players.
No bench mark for sale price of crop:
There is one more contention of farmers that without MSP how someone judge, that which price is good for farmer produce.
There can be a situation where private players buy agricultural produce even below the cost of production but as there is no benchmark to judge it, it will presumed that every farmer is getting good income.
Agriculture is state subject:
This is not that only farmers are protesting against these farmers’ laws but there are significant people those feel that these farm laws interfere in state power as agriculture is state subjects.
Not only this even revenue of state government will also reduce after implementing these farm laws.
Agricultural market place / mandis work as local bank for farmers:
There are one more interesting facts about these mandis.
Basically mandis are operated by middlemen or service providers who are called as arthiyas.
You like it or not Arthiyas are very important part of farming in India and play a key role in agricultural farming.
Arthiyas ( service provider ) charge some commission from farmers at the time of trading of crops in mandis but at the same time provide lot of services to farmers. These service providers are mostly from same local areas and mostly friends or family members of farmers.
How service provider (Arthiyas / Middle men) are integral part of farming community:
- Farmers require money for purchasing machinery, inputs, seeds, fertilizers and as getting money from banks are quite complicated, they approach these people.
- Arthiyas provide money without any paper work or any delay because they have close relations from many generations.
- Arthiyas not only provide money but support farmers on any occasion, may it be marriage or other incidents in family?
- Some time these service providers / Arthiyas provide help without any financial considerations to poor farming families which is why farmers attached with them emotionally.
- There are lot of examples when Arthiyas helping farmer on many social cause.
- Most of the time Arthiyas help farmers to bring their harvested crop to market place / mandis.
- As farmers are associated with these Arthiyas from many years they have created a unbreakable bonding and farmers are assured that paying some commission at the time of selling their produce is worth and win and win situation for both.
Due to the above-mentioned reasons and easy access to Arthiyas, farmers feel quite comfortable dealing with the mandi system and against abolishing this system. Farmers don’t want any other system and this is the reason Why they are protesting against farm bills.
Farm bills from parliament passed without proper discussion
Many people including farmers are complaining that these bills are quite important bills and can change the whole system of farming in India. Bills of this nature should have been discussed thoroughly in the parliament and outside of the parliament.
Most of the Farmer unions are complaining that they were not taken into confidence before introducing and passing these very important bills in parliament.
Some are even complaining that these farm bills should have been sent to parliament committee to discuss it thoroughly. But nothing this sort of happened and even bill was passed without vote division.
This create lot of confusion in farmers mind that government want to pass these bills at any cost and not thinking about welfare of farmers and not addressing their apprehensions.
Apprehension that Government try to reduce their financial liability:
Some farmers are in this view that due to very high expenditure of Government, now government wants to get away from subsidy regime and push farmers in to the hands of private player.
They feel that pressure of implementing MSP all over India with the base calculation of swaminathan committee report put government in such situation that government in no way to implement it due to very high financial liability.
This is why the government hurriedly decided to dismantling the existing mandi system rather than implementing it in other parts of the country. one of the reasons Why Indian farmers are protesting against farm bills, is that they feel that government is more interested to make a happy non-farming community and not interested spending money on farmer welfare.
Farmers feel they are not in position to negotiate with big private players:
Most of the farmers has small land holding and poor .They feel that they are in no way match to the big private players. They also feel that these private players will come only to make money and try every trick of the business to exploit them.
Farmers are also very apprehensive about Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 which gives private players freedom to store unlimited quantity of food grains.
This gives apprehension in the mind of farmers that these private players will start hording and run market as per their choice.
They will buy food grains at cheaper price and then store it and wait for the price to go up due to shortage of food grain availability in the market.
In this way, these big private players control the market and prices of agricultural commodities. Not only these Farmers are also apprehensive about the Farmers ( Empowerment and protection) Agreement on price assurance and farm services act 2020
Government emphasize that this farm law will empower farmer as they can enter into contract farming agreement with private companies and insured crop prices which they get.
Farmers feel that on paper this bill is looks good but in reality these private players will put so much condition particularly regarding quality of crop produce in agreement that fulfilling these parameters will be quite difficult. Which will lead to exploitation and lot of complications and confusions?
Moreover as companies have their offices in far from farmers field, it will be quite difficult to solve issues.
In case these issues reach to the third party, private big players will have upper hand and farmers will not be able to match them.
As per the bill, farmers can approach Sub-divisional Magistrate for any dispute, but as per farmer unions chances of getting resolution of these disputes in favor of farmers are very low. That’s why they demand that they should have the option of putting their dispute in court. Farmers are apprehensive that in case of any dispute they are not going to get any justice as private big players are having both money and muscle power. This is the biggest worry for farmers and that s Why Indian farmers are protesting against farm bills and no amount of government promises are working.
Rule of supply and demand can be manipulated by private Big private players:
In India agriculture is mostly depend on weather and farmers have no storage facility for storage of their agriculture commodities.
At the time of harvesting, farmers are always worried that any heavy rain and thunderstorm can destroy their entire crops. Not only this, some of the crops has to consume within few days otherwise the entire product will become useless.
It is, therefore, there are many ways private big players exploit the farmers:
- As farmers have to sell their products as soon as possible, private big players can stop or reduce the buying of farming products for some time and it will lead to the collapse of prices as farmers will be forced to sell their produce at any cost. You can charge someone for purchasing something at lower prices but you cannot do anything if someone not purchases your products.
- Private big players may mention, many quality parameters as conditions for buying crop produce which may be ridiculous but it again gives the big private players to manipulate the market.
Status of farmer Bills at this stage:
The supreme court of India has stayed implementation of these farms laws and appointed a committee to give its recommendations.
As per farmer unions, they want the government must scrape these farms’ bills entirely and do not want to participate in any discussion with the Supreme Court of India appointed committee.
According to farmers they feel that these bills may be look beneficial to farmer on paper but in practical these are going to destroy APMC Mandy system and they will be under the mercy of big private player.
At present thousands of farmers, camping with their tractor and trolley at Haryana and Uttar Pradesh Delhi border.
It seems that negotiations between government and farmers reached to dead lock and both side are adamant to their demands. Government is trying hard to convince that these farms bills are for farmers help but farmers are absolutely sure that these farm bills are death warrant for them and instead of increasing their income, will infect destroy them.
They are blaming that in long run these farm bills will destroy their farming sector and farmers will be left on the mercy of big private corporate.
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