Since the end of November 2020, the borders of Delhi have been witnessing a massive agitation by farmers. Several rounds of talks between the government and the farmers remained inconclusive. Let’s read in detail various provisions of these laws and the objections of the farmers to these laws.
In September 2020, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the three ‘Agriculture Bills’ that were earlier passed by the Indian Parliament. These Farm Acts are as follows:
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020: This Bill allows the farmers to sell their produce outside the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) regulated markets. The APMCs are government-controlled marketing yards or mandis. The government says the farmers clearly have more choice on who they want to sell.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020: This Bill makes provisions for the setting up of a framework for contract farming. The farmer and an ordained buyer can strike a deal before the production happens.
According to PRS India, a “Standing Committee on Agriculture (2018-19)” observed the APMC laws needed reforms as cartelization had begun to crystallise due to a limited no. of traders in APMC mandis. Therefore the following law was passed in September 2020.
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 allows intra-State and inter-State trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of APMC markets. State governments are prohibited from levying any market fee outside the APMC.
Benefit to farmers, as claimed by government
Defeat the monopoly at the APMC mandi and sell the produce anywhere to anyone
Free to make contracts and transfer risk to businessmen in deals made over a crop even before yield is made or met.
Farmers from many northern States are angry with the provisions of these Bills as they claimed that these Bills may be the platform that the Central government is setting up for the replacement or scrapping of the robust support system prevalent in their States for the purchase of their crops.
They fear that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) guarantee that was their safety net since the Green Revolution (1960), maybe snatched away from under the pretext of giving the farmers better platforms.
During talks with the Centre farmer leaders have made a string of demands. These included repealing the farm laws and the Electricity Amendment Act, 2020; legally ensuring government procurement on minimum support price; withdrawal of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020; withdrawal of cases registered against activists and protesters; and implementation of Swaminathan Commission report to fix MSP with C2+50 percent formulae.
The Farmers’ Unions have asked for a repeal of the Farm Laws 2020, however, the Central Government is suggesting amendments.