NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed two farm Bills – one on Agri market reforms and the other on contract farming provisions – amid strong protests by Opposition parties. The one on amending Essential Commodities Act was passed on Tuesday. These three Bills will replace existing ordinances once passed by the Rajya Sabha.
Protests by political parties and a section of farm organisations against three bills have heated up Parliament but the old system might not favour a majority of farmers who could stand to gain by more choices the new legislations propose.
Key provisions of the proposed legislation are intended to help small and marginal farmers (86% of total farmers) who dont have means to either bargain for their produce to get a better price or invest in technology to improve productivity of farms.
On the other hand, the legislations are likely to impact influential commission agents (known as arhatiyas in Punjab and Haryana) in mandis who dont want their grip over farmers to weaken.
Arhatiya-farmer ties are indeed close since the former function as informal bankers without collateral in times of need. But the legislation, government officials said, did not do away with the system altogether and instead added an option. The fears of the MSP system being dismantled were incorrect, they said.
The issues and fears raised include end of minimum support price (MSP) regime in due course, irrelevance of state-controlled Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis, risk of losing out land rights under contract farming rule, reduction in price of farm produce due to market domination by big agribusinesses and exploitation of farmers by big contractors through contract farming provisions.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, however, reassured the Lok Sabha on Thursday that while farmers will now be freed from the restrictions of having to sell their produce at designated places only, the procurement at MSP will continue and mandis established under State laws will also continue to operate.
“Farmers will now have freedom for direct marketing of their produce and will be able to get better prices,” said Tomar, adding that these legislations will bring about revolutionary transformation and transparency in the agriculture sector.
Even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi through his tweets sought to allay fears of farmers over the MSP. After passing of the Bills, he tweeted saying the MSP-based procurement system will stay.
लोकसभा में ऐतिहासिक कृषि सुधार विधेयकों का पारित होना देश के किसानों और कृषि क्षेत्र के लिए एक महत्वपूर्ण क्षण है।… https://t.co/u250l63D4Q
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1600361595000
इस कृषि सुधार से किसानों को अपनी उपज बेचने के लिए नए-नए अवसर मिलेंगे, जिससे उनका मुनाफा बढ़ेगा। इससे हमारे कृषि… https://t.co/C9JKgwCRkj
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1600361611000
Calling the passing of the Bills “historic”, Modi said these Bills will free farmers from the clutches of middlemen and strengthen them through providing various alternatives.
किसानों को भ्रमित करने में बहुत सारी शक्तियां लगी हुई हैं। मैं अपने किसान भाइयों और बहनों को आश्वस्त करता हूं कि MS… https://t.co/gpM1RXdeu2
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1600361644000
Though the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) and the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of several other organisations, have been protesting against the bills which they believe are designed to help big corporate houses at the cost of farmers, other groups such as Maharashtra-based Shetkari Sanghatana support such reforms.
“It will not only ensure better price of farm produce to farmers through competition and cost cutting on transportation but also improve agri infrastructure and the countrys export potential. Fear over phasing out of the MSP system is unnecessary. The MSP system will not end in India as long as the public distribution system (PDS) is here,” said Anil Ghanwat of the Shetkari Sanghatana.
The BKUs Subhash Chaudhary, who has been on the forefront of protests against the bills in Delhi-NCR, however, said, “The new laws will only promote big private companies. Farmers will now simply have to survive at the mercy of corporates.”
The bill on agri market seeks to allow farmers to sell their produce outside APMC mandis to whoever they want. Anyone can buy their produce even at their farm gates. Though commission agents of the mandis and states could lose 'commissions' and 'mandi fees' respectively (the main reasons for the current protests), farmers will get better prices through competition and cost cutting on transportation.
“The state governments of Punjab and Haryana will be affected most because of loss Mandi Tax, a good source of revenue. The arhatiyas will also loose not only their commissions but also their traditional business,” said Sudhir Panwar, agriculture Read More – Source