WHAT DOES THE BILL SAY?
The bill allows the farmer to sell their products at all places other than regulated ”MANDIS”. They don’t want to close down the Mandi but want to expand farmer’s choice to sell their products in different places. The mention of MSP is nowhere, which is very essential to support the small farmers.
The Second Bill suggests for allowing economic guests to stock food without any fear of charges regarding hoarding.
The Third Bill formulates an opportunity for farmers to enter into contract farming i.e. signing a written contract with a company to produce what the company wants in exchange of healthy remuneration.
POSITIVE ASPECT OF THE BILL
• The bill made a much more flexible system for the farmers.
• The farmers are free to sell their products outside the ‘Mandis’.
• The amendment to the Essential Commodities Act which is one of the three bills, provides that the economic guest could hoard stock without fear of any charges regarding hoarding.
• The bills ensure to protect the interest of farmers, they get a stipulated price for crops so that the farming survives.
• In the existing APMC system, it is mandatory for farmers to go via Mandis to sell their produces to consumers and companies and they receive Minimum Selling Prices for their produce. It was this very system that has influenced the rise to a cartel led by traders and uncompetitive markets due to which the farmers are paid MSP (a very low price) for their produces.
THE PROBLEM REGARDING MSP
In the Farmer’s produce trade and commerce bill, there is no statutory backing the MSP, without mentioning MSP the bill was passed in both the Houses of Parliament. As MSP is devoid of any legal backing farmers can’t demand their right of entitlement of subsidized grains through PDS.
The CACP, in its price policy report for the 2018-19 Kharif marketing season, had suggested enactment of a legislation conferring on farmers ‘The Right to Sell at MSP’. This, it felt, was necessary “to instill confidence among farmers for procurement of their produce”. The advice given by them was not accepted by the present government. As there is no MSP now, we can see the farmers have lost their confidence.
Farmers of Punjab, Haryana, and MP consider freedom to sell to anyone, anywhere and anytime is not as important as to comfort of assured procurement at MSP
If APMCs were to turn unviable due to the trades moving outside, how will government agencies undertake procurement that now takes place in mandis?
OVERALL PROBLEM OF THE BILL
The way the ordinances were introduced in the midst of the pandemic, nothing can explain why there was a rush all of a sudden when everything was going alright. And also, they introduced the ordinances without any consultation of the experts regarding this field, the farmer’s representative was also not asked about it. They also did not bother to hear out the Opposition in Parliament. Policy regarding the agriculture was constitutionally mandated as a state subject and making such rules for the nation as a whole does not make any sense.
The bills introduced did not improve the situation but made the matter worse as the bills did not give any assurance regarding the protection of interest, livelihood, and future of the farmers.
To add up more as mentioned earlier they omitted one of the most important provisions i.e. the MSP while introducing the bills.
The ordinances have merely simplified the names of the existing Act and have taken the only thing that the farmers thought to be the most vital and best part of the previous regulations regarding the Farm bill.
If we think from the farmer’s point of few, what the bill has done is, it is basically throwing the small farmers to things they don’t understand; where market forces will control the pricing, procurement, and marketing mechanism. The whole life of these farmers would be wasted by running from one retailer/ trader to another to sell their products season after season. The bargaining power which they used to possess has also been snatched from them.
While introducing the ordinances the center claimed that the new laws made would free the farmers from the monopolistic clutches of the arhtiyas.
Taking into consideration the statement made firstly if they wished the farmers to be happy and satisfied with the new regulations, did they even once ask if the farmers wanted this?
Secondly, how will such legislation protect the farmers from falling into the clutches of the monopolistic big corporates, who have progressively been taking over one sector after another in the reign of the BJP government?
Another important thing which might take place looking into the situation is “If the farmer unrest on this issue goes on, Pakistan will try to take advantage of the situation”, which is a great threat to the country’s security too.
DEMAND OF THE FARMERS
1. The farmers want the three bills to be abolished.
2. They want the Mandi System to stay intact and not disturbed.
3. The farmers want their loan to be cleared.
4. They want that law should be made regarding MSP, where MSP is at least 50% more than the weighted average cost, and if MSP is not paid then people would be punished for it.
5. They also want a law regarding guarantee payment through middlemen that has always been a norm to ensure that the bank doesn’t deduct money in name of recovery.
SOLUTION TO THE DISTRESS CAUSED
The simplest solution against the protest of the farmers with respect to the farm bills is including the Minimum selling price with proper statutory provisions in the new bill to assure the farmer that their interest is taken care of properly. They should look that the farmers are able to sell their products without the help of middlemen, this could really happen if there are proper roads that link villages to markets, climate-controlled storage facilities are provided, a proper electricity supply is made available to power those facilities, and food processing companies who would want to buy their produce.