Despite the nationwide protests on September 25th, President Ramnath Kovind gave assent to the three farm bills on Sunday 27-September 2020, recently passed by the parliament. The three bills were the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020.
The President didn’t pay any heed to the irregularities brought by the members of parliament and the partisan manner in which the Deputy chairman conducted the business in Rajya Sabha. President should have used his powers to ask the government to reconsider but he chose to stand with the government. We are deeply disappointed and outraged at this murder of democracy and violation of every possible procedure and conversion of parliament into a rubber stamp. After the dubious proceeding of passing the bills by voice vote, it should have been discussed, debated, and sent to the parliamentary committee for further analysis and adding necessary amendments, affirming the security and benefit of the farmers.
Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation), Act
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, promotes private markets for the trading of agricultural produce. The central government is calling it favorable for farmers as they will now be able to sell their produce wherever they want, but the question is how many farmers sell their products in distant markets and have enough resources to do so? More than 80% of the farmers do not have landholdings of more than 2 Hectares and the act does not have any clause for regulating the prices outside the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), commonly known as ‘Anaj Mandi’ or ‘Krishi Mandi’. There are close to 7000 APMCs in the country with their own ecosystem of trading and employment.
This act allows middlemen or traders or private companies to bypass the APMCs and buy it directly from farmers or other trading centers. The APMC’s will not shut immediately but eventually, they will, as most of the trade will be happening outside of these. The APMCs are also those marketplaces where farmers can sell their crops on Minimum Support Price, so it’s a direct threat to the MSP as well. This act will certainly benefit the private companies and traders as now they will not need any license for buying, they will not have to pay the taxes to the states for buying and it will also provide them with the potential of regulating the prices of the agricultural goods.
Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services, Act
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services act will clear the way for contract farming, and now private companies will be able to make direct contacts with the farmers. Again, there are no price regulations for directly buying from farmers. This might benefit the farmers in the beginning but with time, companies will be setting up the rates as per their will and can also influence the farmers for growing particular crops, posing a serious threat for the indigenous crops.
Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020
The third act Essential Commodities (Amendment), Act 2020, removes the cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oil, onion, and potato from the list of essential commodities. This act will also promote hoarding of goods as it says that stock limits can only be imposed if the retail price of non-perishable goods (cereals, pulses, oil-seeds, etc) increases above the average by 50% and the retail price of perishable goods (fruits, vegetables, etc) increase above the average by 100%.
The act is set to become a foundation for the private companies for regulating the prices as per their whims & fancies. The Amendment will de-regularise the production, storage, movement, and distribution for these food commodities, also posing a serious threat to the food security of Indian citizens.
The farmers have already begun protesting nationwide, right after these were passed from the parliament. Bhumi Adhikar Andolan vows to continue challenging the acts and its implementation on the ground and will also explore legal ways to challenge this since it impinges upon the federal character and takes away the right of the State legislatures to make the laws. ###