The newly formed agricultural bill is made with the objective of giving the farmers the freedom to trade across the states and empower them to be in control of the process of trading and turning them into traders of their produce. The purpose of these bills was to create an ecosystem where the traders and farmers would be enjoying the freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agricultural produce. It is also to promote a barrier-free inter-state and intra- state trade outside the premises of the markets which is notified under the legislations of the State Agricultural Produce Marketing Legislations.
President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent for the “Agricultural Bills” in September 2020 which were passed earlier by the Indian Parliament which led to a wide range of protests all over the nation. The objective of the bill was to provide a legal framework for the farmers to enter a legal framework by means of pre-arranged contracts and to provide the farmers with multiple marketing channels among other things. There were protests held in September against the acts which were held particularly in the states of Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana where the Indian farmers were at the forefront.
The three farm acts which were given assent by the President in September 2020 are the following:
- The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020
There were protests all over the nation against these laws. The acts were also called the “anti-farmer laws” by the farmers and many opposition parties. These protestors of the bill say that the act would leave the farmers at the mercy of corporators whereas the government is defending by saying that the act was passed in order to make it easy for the farmers to sell off their produce to the big multinational companies. The bill was opposed by various farm organizations and political parties like the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and a few sections of farmers. These organizations and parties say that the bills would destroy farmers’ livelihood and therefore, would help no one except the big corporations.
This article would discuss in detail the 3 bills that were passed, the pros and cons of the bills which have been passed. It would also discuss the reasons for the farmers for protesting against the bills.
What Are The 3 Bills That Were Passed?
- The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Ordinance, 2020.
The purpose of this act is to open up agricultural sales and marketing beyond the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC). These are mandis for farmers and help in providing a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce and facilitate the process of removing barriers to inter-state trade. The act also provides for the prohibition of state government from collecting markets or levies for trade outside the APMC markets. It also allows for electronic trading of the scheduled farmer’s produce and it allows for electronic trading to facilitate direct and online buying and selling of the produce of farmers through electronic devices and the internet.
- The Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020
This agreement emphasizes providing a framework on agreements of trade for the sale and purchase of the farm produce and related to contract to farm. The mutually agreed price framework is to protect and empower the farmers. The written framework agreement must list all the terms and conditions of the purchase and the price that has to be paid should also be mentioned in the agreement. The process of such price determination should also be mentioned in the agreement. The period of the framing agreement should also be provided in the agreement. The conciliation board and the process of such conciliation in case a dispute arises should also be mentioned for the settlement of disputes between the parties.
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020
The act removes pulses, cereals, edible oils, potatoes, oilseeds, and onion from the list of essential commodities. There would be deregulation of the production, storage, movement, and distribution of the above-mentioned food commodities by this amendment. It is required by the ordinance that the imposition on any stock limit of an agricultural product must be based on the price rise.
Pros and Cons of The New Agricultural Bill
Pros of the New Agricultural Bill
- For the creation of a freer and more flexible system.
- Creation of an additional marketing channel for the farmers by selling their produce outside the physical territory of the mandis.
- Those traders who buy from the farmers would be punished for holding stocks that are considered to be excess and inflicting losses for the farmers. This removes the fear of the farmers.
- To see that the farming survives, the bill ensures that the farmer of the crop is given the same attention as the production and that the stipulated price is given to the farmer.
- The APMC’S licensed traders had been mandatory in some states where the farmers were mandated to trade with only the APMC licensed traders. This problem of middlemen was the main loophole that had been eliminated as with the new farm produce trade and commerce bill, the farmers can sell their products as per their choice.
- The new bills would attract private investments to the agricultural industry which would lead to the improvement of infrastructure of the agricultural sector which can lead to the modernization of the agricultural industry. This might even save the transport cost of the farmers as the big companies might also come to the farmers by themselves to take the produce.
- As the farmers would get the price insurance beforehand, contract farming would be helpful for the farmers. The burden of the farmers might also be reduced as some companies might even provide the farmers with seeds, fertilizers, and other requirements.
- The bill also helps in stabilizing the prices of agricultural produce. This could also help in the improvement of the cold storage facilities in the country.
Cons of the New Agricultural Bill
- The monopoly of APMS is hampered by the new bill by allowing the sale and purchase of the crops outside the market yards or mandis which are state-government regulated.
- MSP is not provided with any statutory backing by the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill. The farmers have everything to do with MSP although they have nothing to do with the legal system and the legal process.
- They need all the information about the MSP, the price of the product of which they are selling which is not mentioned in the bill. The bill doesn’t mention either the “MSP” or the “Procurement”.
- There is no law mandating the implementation of the MSPs for crops which is declared by the government.
- Sugarcane is the only crop that has some statutory implementation of the MSP payment for which FRP is determined.
- The new bills place the farmers at the mercy of the civil servants rather than at the mercy of the civil courts.
- The bills are not passed in a democratic process. Although agriculture and trade are state subjects, the states were not considered before passing the bills. Even farmers were not given an opportunity to raise their concerns although they are the main people for whose benefit the bills were passed. The bills were not passed with a clear vote even in the parliament and were merely passed on voice voting.
- The farmers may be at the risk of exploitation as the markets will go to the hands of the big businesses unless the prices are regulated by the governments.
- The farmers might turn into slaves of the big MNC’s due to contract to farm.
What Exactly Are the Farmers Protesting For?
- For the Nullification of the Agricultural Laws.
Farmers want the government to withdraw the three agricultural laws that have been passed. The farmers and their union leaders who are protesting feel that the agricultural laws are against the interest of the farmers and the sole purpose of the act was only the promotion of privatization and hoarding. They feel that the future would be left in jeopardy due to the recent laws and so want the government to repeal them.
- A written assurance on the Minimum Support Price (MSP)
The farmers have looked upon the new agricultural bills as a serious threat to the existing minimum support price system (MSP) since they have been passed in the parliament. Across the 16 nations, a total of 39% of the farmers have shared this fear. The farmers want the law to make MSP mandatory. A written assurance by the government guaranteeing a traditional food grain procurement system in the future for the central pool and the guarantee for the continuance of the MSP was one of the biggest demands of farmers.
- To nullify the Electricity Bill Amendment
The farmer also wants the government to abolish the electricity amendment bill. The farmers have the fear that the bill would stop free or subsidized electricity to the farmers once it is enforced. The farmers have felt that the bill would stop providing free electricity to farmers in Punjab and that the bill only supports privatization.
- To lift the punishment and fine on stubble burning
The central government took a decision of five-year imprisonment for stubble burning in order to curb air pollution in October this year and the farmers want the government to revoke its decision with regards to this. The government has also imposed a five-year prison sentence or a fine of one crore rupees for stubble burning.
Involvement of the Supreme Court of India
Numerous petitions have been received by the Supreme Court of India seeking direction to put an end to protests of the farmers from blocking the access routes to the capital. It was conveyed to the central government by the Supreme Court that it intends to set up a body for taking the negotiations between the farmers and the government forward. The right to peaceful protest under the Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India has been recognized by the supreme court and it also further added that the farmers have a purpose for the protest and the purpose would only be served only if they discuss and come to a conclusion. The supreme court had asked to set up a committee consisting of the farmer union leaders across India, the government and various stakeholders to put an end to this issue. The permission to implement farmer organizations has been granted by the Supreme Court.