The Union Cabinet passed three agriculture ordinances in June 2020, claiming them to be farmer-friendly.
The first Bill allows barrier-free trade of farm produce. Earlier, the farm produce could only be sold at notified wholesale markets or mandis run by the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMC). Each APMC has licensed middlemen (arhatiyas) who would buy from the farmers at a price set by auction, before selling to institutional buyers like retailers and big traders.
Under the Bill, farmers will directly be able to sell their produce to institutional buyers without the involvement of middlemen, and at the price agreed between them.
Even earlier, there was no restriction on farmers to sell elsewhere.
Due to the presence of eNAM (Electronic National Agriculture Marketing), farmers were already free to sell their products without any barriers. So, this Bill provides no such advantage to the farmers. All it does is makes the private companies powerful, which can result in the exploitation of farmers in the long run.
This Bill allows farmers to enter into an agreement with agri-firms, exporters or large buyers to produce a crop at a pre-agreed price — i.e. Contract Farming.
The government says that it will no longer stock essential food commodities, including cereals, pulses, edible oil, sugar etc. This allows economic agents to stock food items freely, without the fear of being prosecuted for hoarding.
In a country such as India, the agriculture is already vulnerable. Hence, it is essential to have state-supported schemes to support the farmers. Although our Prime Minister announced that MSPs will not be removed, there is no mention of it in the Bill. This causes fear in the minds of farmers. Only 6% farmers currently benefit from MSP, as procurement is not done for all 20+ crops for which MSP is declared.
The main centre of protest against the Bill has been Haryana and Punjab. These are one of the few farming states of our country. More than nine crore families are involved in farming. Punjab’s economy is based on FCI (Food Corporation of India). If these Bills become an Act, it will lead to misery of farmers.
There are 28,000 registered commission agents in Punjab who might become jobless if APMCs are removed. The intention displayed by the government seems good only on paper. In reality, it will neither be easy nor profitable.
Not only Punjab and Haryana, but many other states including Karnataka are involved in massive protests. Even during the pandemic, the farmers are protesting. A tractor protest was also held earlier in July this year. Harsimrat Kaur Badal, member of Shiromani Akali Dal, an MP from Bhatinda, resigned from her post in the Food Processing Industry in the Union Cabinet to support the farmers.
The government claims that this will end the exploitation of farmers by the middlemen, but practically nothing will change as private players will look for their own benefit instead of thinking about the farmers.
Now I leave it up to you to decide whether the farm bills are FARMER FRIENDLY or not.