Even as the central government tried to assuage the apprehensions harboured by ‘farmers’ regarding the agriculture laws by saying that the new laws would seek to remove middlemen, a group of farmers speaking to the media appeared to bat in support of the middlemen involved in the sale and purchase of their agricultural produce.
#FarmersProtest | “The government is saying that they have introduced the new farm laws to eliminate the middlemen. We are asking them to define ‘middlemen'”: Farmers address the media pic.twitter.com/bDfaRauVTm— NDTV (@ndtv) November 29, 2020
“The government is saying that they have introduced the new farm laws to eliminate the middlemen. We are asking them to define ‘middlemen’. The system that is in place in Punjab and Haryana is considered as the best in the world. When we take our produce to mandis in Punjab and Haryana, the individuals there help us in unloading our trolleys filled with our produce. They pack the grains in sacks and receive money on our behalf from the buyers. They are not middlemen, they are service providers, and if they are charging a commission for providing their service, so be it,” a ‘farmer’ said to the media.
The ‘farmer’ further alleged that the bills that were introduced by the government under the pretext of helping the farmers were brought under the pressure from middlemen in other areas. He said that the Indian government has employed middlemen in several areas of its functioning such as Defence, Trade and Commerce and contended that not a single government transaction happens without a ‘middleman’ being involved.
No restrictions faced by farmers, bills are redundant: Farmer Group
The ‘farmer’ continued his attack against the central government, stating that the reasons provided by them for the introduction of the farm bills are not satisfactory. He stated that the government had introduced the bills for helping the corporates and not for the welfare of the farmers. Rubbishing the central government’s claim of bills helping in removing the impediments to the farmers for selling their products anywhere in the country, the farmer claimed that they still sell their produce across the country without any difficulty.
“The government states that the bills have enabled ‘One country one mandi’ but in reality, the laws have resulted in ‘One country two mandis’. They have pandered to the corporates. In 1976, we fought for the zonal restrictions that prevented farmers from selling their produce to other states. A case was filed and the high court in November 1976 gave a verdict in our favour. Since then, farmers in Bihar send paddy to Punjab. We sell our produce to Bengaluru and Bengal. Apples from Himachal and Kashmir are sold across the country. Maharashtra sends Bananas, Onions and Oranges to other states,” the farmer said.
Farmer indulges in fear-mongering about agricultural reforms carried out by the Modi government
While scare-mongering about the central government’s decision to carry out reforms in the agricultural sector, the farmer inadvertently listed down the benefits that the farmers would receive from the reforms undertaken by the Modi government. Speaking to the media, the farmer said that the new laws would enable anyone from across the country, who has a government authorised identification card such as Pan Card, Aadhar, to buy directly from the farmers. However, he did not shy away from fear-mongering about the reforms, adding that such a provision would be catastrophic for the farmers as there is no effective grievance redressal mechanism in place if the buyer refuses to pay his due to the farmers.
Modi government announces three new bills to overhaul the agriculture sector
Continuing the reform agenda on the back of a Unified National Agriculture Market (NAM) which was announced in 2014, the Modi government had in September 2020 introduced three more bills to promote much easier trade for the farm produce and to provide a competitive market for the producers outside the existing APMC system.
The objective of the three proposed laws is to make way for creating the Modi government’s ambitious vision of ‘One India, One Agriculture Market’. The law intends to end the monopoly of Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in carrying out the trade of farm produce in the country.
The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 aims at creating additional trading opportunities outside the APMC market yards to help farmers get remunerative prices due to additional competition. Farmers can now sell their agricultural produce in a market of their choice at better prices.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 creates a framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce.
The amendments to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 allows the central government to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances.
Significance of the proposed laws
- The three historic legislation will unlock the overly regulated agricultural markets in the country. The laws will provide more choices for the farmer and lessen the marketing costs for the farmers thus helping them to get better prices. It will also help farmers of regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers of regions with shortages, lower prices.
- The laws will enable the farmer to make use of modern technology and better inputs to enhance their farm produce and its trade. It will reduce the cost of marketing and improve the income of farmers. These new laws will encourage large companies, food processing firms, exporters, etc, to invest in the farm sector and source good-quality farm produce.
- The announced amendment to the Essential Commodities Act is expected to help both farmers and consumers while bringing in price stability. The proposed changes will also create a competitive market environment and prevents wastage of agri-produce that happens due to lack of storage facilities.