Strangely enough, no voice seems to have been raised against the farm laws in all the campaigning for Bihar elections. Needless issues are raised, but no powerful protest comes up in the fiercely-fought tussling of this caste-dominated electoral arena. It is Punjab that has formally rejected the three agriculture sector legislations, with its Legislative Assembly unanimously passing three Bills to negate the Union laws.
After days of protests, the farmers began to trickle out of the protests to return homes. Although most of the farmers were halted during their demonstrations, they were either forced into lying low or returned to their farms to sow the Rabi crops in ensuing days. It looked more or less like the powerful image of hundreds of non-Jewish wives protesting for their Jewish husbands’ release during resistance in the Third Reich (ideal state) of Germany.
The distressing points are placing farmers and traders at the mercy of civil servants, rather than of the courts, say experts. Acute apprehension still lingers about the reforms that reduce rules around the sale, pricing and storage of the farm produce. So far, these rules have protected the country’s farmers from the free market for several decades.
The private buyers are allowed to hoard essential commodities for future sales, which only government-authorised agents could do earlier. They also establish rules for contract farming, where farmers tailor their production to suit a specific buyer’s demand. The farmers will have to sell their produce at a market price directly to the private players like agricultural businesses, supermarket chains and online grocers. They currently sell the majority of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets or mandis at assured floor prices.
Detailing upon the bills via media, the experts refocused on the statutory backing to the minimum selling prices and procurement in the new bill to eradicate the fear of the farmers. Giving farmers a choice to sell without the help of intermediaries will be of great use only if there are roads that link villages to markets, climate-controlled storage facilities, the electricity supply is made reliable and available to power those facilities, and food processing companies who compete to buy their produce.