“DON’T BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD, BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU HAVE READ.”
INTRODUCTION We will undoubtedly agree with the fact that India is a land of villages and farmers are the soul of our country India. Being in the profession of farming you are ought to be respected as you are “Annadaata” meaning food provider. Looking at the word Annadaata you all might be thinking that farmers will be living a noble and respectable life, they may be prosperous and happy, and ironically that’s not the case. They are the ones who are in some way or other subjected to deep roots of harassment.
Around 70% of our workforce is employed in agriculture and 15% of the GDP comes from agriculture. And around 11.2% of suicides are termed as farmer’s suicide. Reasons may include high debt, deadly drought, floods, suicide ideas and anti-farmer laws in India, etc. There is a reason to ask what the government has done presently to address the needs of the backbone of our economy. Well, they have introduced a farm bill. A bill that has sparked protests all over the nation. Why farmers are feared after coming up with the bill.
Is there something in the bill that is annoying them or is it that they have built some misconception regarding the bill? Will these protests and farms bills have a political angle within them? Will these protests end or will continue for an endless time? Let’s have a look at these aspects.
FACTS RELATING TO FARM BILLS
When we talk about Farm bills, we are actually talking about the three legislations separately. On 27th September 2020, the president of India gave assent to three farm bills. The three farm bills are- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, we can call this one the essential commodities amendment, The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, we can call this one the Marketplace law, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, we can call this as Contract Farming Law.
THE ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2020
To get a basic overview we can understand that the Essential Commodities Amendment basically controls the supply, production, and distribution of certain commodities that come under the list of Essential Commodities. The new bill removes the foodstuff items such as cereals, potatoes, onions, edible oil, etc from the list. Furthermore, now the government cannot stop supermarket chains or retailers from hoarding unless there is a 100% increase in the price of perishable goods or a 50% increase in non-perishable goods. Farmers believe that this bill will increase the chances of hoarding since now private players will come into the house. They will try to manipulate the storage system which in turn will lead to difficulties for farmers.
THE FARMERS PRODUCE TRADE AND COMMERCE (PROMOTION AND FACILITATION) BILL, 2020
Now coming to marketplace law, the new amendment says that the farmers can sell their harvest anywhere, whether it may be interstate or intra-state or even online. Now they are not restricted only to selling to APMC. This however does not mean that APMC will be eliminated or shut down. The idea is just to expand the farmer’s choice in selling their produce as per the government officials.
But the main problem in this law is that the law is being brought by the union government whereas schedule 7 says that only states can make the amendments relating to Agricultural marketing. Farmers also fear the fact that now the government procurement system and MSP policy will come to an end but the Government officials have clearly denied this fact. Officials said that they just want farmers to give freedom of choice in selling their harvest and defeat the monopoly of APMC in regulating the produce.
THE FARMERS (EMPOWERMENT AND PROTECTION) AGREEMENT OF PRICE ASSURANCE AND FARM SERVICES BILL, 2020
This Bill can be termed as Contract Farming Law. Now farmers before selling their harvest can make contracts with buyers of the produce. They are not restricted to any particular buyer. In this way, big corporate houses and private players can come into the picture. Farmers fear that their bargaining power will be lost since these big corporate houses will have control over their produce.
PERSPECTIVE OF GOVERNMENT AND THOSE OPPOSING FARMS BILLS
Since the advent of this bill, a lot of protests are going on. Farmers and farmers unions have come on the streets to protest demanding the withdrawal of the bill. They have even announced Bharat Bandh on 8 December blocking all the highways and roads across the Delhi border. Do you think this is justified? I am sorry, I am totally against this. If you believe I am supporting the government then yes, to some extent I am supporting.
I understand there’s reasonable doubt in the mind of farmers but this reasonable doubt is giving an advantage to the opposition. They are using it as a tool to criticize and attack them. The criticizers of this bill are not even showing the positive sides of the bill i.e. they will get free from the clutches of middlemen. They will get the freedom of choice in selling their produce. Allowing the big corporate houses and private players to come, now there will be reduced monopoly and it will allow farmers to have better chances of profit.
Many think that by the way of Farm bills, the government wants the farmers to sell their lands to capitalists but the truth is that farmers have been provided adequate protection against the same. An effective dispute resolution mechanism has been provided with clear timelines for redressal. Many opponents believe that Farm bills are a conspiracy to phase out the safety net of minimum support policy. But the government has stated nothing regards to this doesn’t mean that it has been stopped. MSP will still continue.
But Farmer's fears are also justified. They have their own fears. But it’s our duty to explain to the farmers the pros of the bill. Instead of more distressing them, you should clear out the myths that they have thought of. Stop using them for your political agendas. Just because you use your own self centered political agendas, some very genuine requests of the farmers remain unheard.