While farmer organisations have argued that the laws will reduce their bargaining capacities and put an end to the existing minimum support price regime, the government has clarified that the MSP regime will stay and that the lifting of restrictions on selling produce within agriculture mandis will only give farmers greater freedom to sell where, and to who, they want.
The three farm bills, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 were cleared amid high drama by Parliament last week and have been pitched as long-pending agriculture reforms by the Modi government.
PM Modi had, in fact, referred to the passage of the Bills as a “watershed moment” in the history of Indian agriculture that will empower crores of farmers.
The opposition, however, criticised the government both for the manner in which the legislation passed by parliament and also for failing to protect farmer interests. Referring to the legislation as both “anti-farmer” and “unconstitutional”, the opposition contended that legislations do not promise to protect the existing MSP structure, and also weaken the smaller farmers in the country, who will be at the mercy of large retailers and corporates in selling their produce.
Last week, opposition parties had also written to President Kovind requesting him to return the bills and grant assent only after they are passed following due procedures. NDA’s oldest ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has exited the NDA government over the contentious farm legislations. SAD had sided with the opposition in saying that the legislation would hurt farmer interests.
Even though the Bills have become law on Sunday, the opposition and farmer protests showed no signs of abating, especially in Haryana and Punjab. Protests by farmers against the laws continued on Sunday, with farmers in Punjab squatting on the Amritsar-Delhi railway track. Farmers, under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, have also been staging a sit-in on the rail track in Punjab since last Wednesday.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 aims to permit the sale of agricultural produce outside the mandis regulated by the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) constituted by different state legislations.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 provides for contract farming.
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 aims to deregulate the production, supply, distribution of food items like cereals, pulses, potatoes and onion