While talking to ANI, Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar, said that the agriculture bills that have been recently passed in both houses would bring a revolutionary change in the lives of the farmers.
He said that during the first tenure of PM Modi in the office, the government decided to ensure a 50% increase in the Minimum Selling Price (MSP) in order to improve the financial condition of the farmers. The government took several initiatives to improve productivity and reduce the cost of farming.
A mission to double the income
He said that when the government announced that by 2022, they want to double the income of the farmers, several meetings were done with the states and the stakeholders to formulate the plan. As a part of the initiative, the government announced PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana under which every registered small and marginal farmer will get Rs.6000 every year divided into three instalments. Under the scheme, the government has paid Rs.93,000 crore to the farmers.
The government has decided to open 10,000 Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) centers across the country to help small and marginal farmers. The government is going to spend 6,850 crores on the scheme in five years. These centers will help them in improving their production and income. The government has also announced a 1 lakh crore infrastructure fund in the field of agriculture.
Why are new bills essential?
The union minister said that the new bills dubbed as Farmers’ Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Bill, and Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance & Farm Services Bill would help in removing the hold of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) from the market. These bills will enable the farmers to sell their produce at a higher price directly to the buyers without any middleman.
The welfare we want for farmers wouldn’t have been possible without changing laws. Farmers’ Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Bill, & Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance & Farm Services Bill will be revolutionary: Agriculture Minister pic.twitter.com/5yRLLeUp58— ANI (@ANI) September 24, 2020
He said, according to the present system, the farmer brings the produce to the market. 25-30 licensed traders hold the auction for the produce. The farmer has to sell the produce at the price they have decided. The farmers often bend down to the price the market chooses to, due to the fact that most of them cannot afford to take the produce back with them. This act will enable the farmer to sell the produce in the market or outside the market directly to the end-buyer.
#WATCH Farmers have to bring produce to ‘mandis’ where 25-30 licensed traders hold auction. Then farmer is forced to sell at whatever price is fixed. New Bills give freedom to sell outside APMC ‘mandis’ at prices they deem fit, without the taxes levied there: Agriculture Minister pic.twitter.com/eRRRNPPbj7— ANI (@ANI) September 24, 2020
The end of the state and center tax
Tomar said that anyone who sells the produce outside the APMC market would not have to pay tax to the centre or the state. He said that these bills should not be seen as an end to the APMC market. APMC act functions at the state level. The farmer will have the right to decide where he wants to sell the produce. He can either trade in the APMC market, or he can sell in accordance with the new reforms introduced by the central government.
MSP and procurement of the produce by the government
The union minister said that the government would continue to procure the produce from the farmers. MSP has already been announced for the Rabi and Kharif crops. As soon as the Kharif crop comes to the market, the government will start the procurement procedure. He said that those who are raising questions on MSP should answer if it was a part of any law before. MSP was never a part of any law.
MSP (Minimum Support Price) will continue, we have declared MSP for Kharif and Rabi crops. As soon as Kharif crop is harvested, govt procurement will begin: Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to ANI https://t.co/meheWeKpsc— ANI (@ANI) September 24, 2020
About contract farming
When he was asked about the concerns where some experts suggest these bills will only work in favor of contract farming, he said they do not understand the agriculture sector itself. He said that the bills would help the small farmers in the long run as they will not be forced to bring the produce in the APMC market. They will save on the logistics as the sellers will be able to buy the produce directly from the farm.
The minister said the small formers would be able to form a group in their villages and sell their produce together. He said as the buyers will know that they produce will not reach the market, they will work on contacting the farmers to get products directly. When he was asked that there are concerns that corporate will exploit farmers, he said that bills passed give MSP guarantee at the time of sowing a crop.
Also, as per the law, the contract between the corporate and the farmer will only be for the produce and not for the land. The farmer will have the right to nullify the agreement at any stage, but the corporate cannot step out of the agreement. If there is any dispute, and the decision is in favor of the corporate, the farmer only has to pay the amount that the corporate has paid as initial payment. The cases related to any dispute between the corporate and the farmer will be handled by Sub Divisional Magistrate. As per the law, the SDM has to resolve such cases in 30-days of filing.
About food security
Tomar was asked about food security during the interview. There are some concerns that, due to the lack of incentive in conventional crops, the farmers will shift to cash-crops. It will lead to a decline in the production of traditional crops that are essential, especially in the time of need, such as the current situation of the pandemic. The buffer stock is being used extensively during the Covid-19 widespread across the country.
Tomar said that India has a surplus of buffer stock of essential grains. India does not have enough storage capacity to store the produce. Every year tons of crops go bad due to the lack of storage capacity. Also, it is the need of time that the farmers shift to crops that utilize lesser resources to fight climate change. It will be good if farmers choose to grow crops that require a lesser amount of water and chemical fertilizers. The crops that can provide higher profit at less cost will be beneficial for the farmers.
The noise from the opposition is only a political game
Towards the end of the interview, Tomar said that during his reply in the parliament houses, the opposition parties raised voice against the bill without providing any base to their objections. He said when he was asked to answer the queries of the MPs, he thought he had to talk about the bills, but the queries were just political noises and are not meant for the welfare of farmers.
More details about the bills can be read here.