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HomeUncategorizedThe farm protest : Is roll back an answer?

The farm protest : Is roll back an answer?

The package of three new Farm Laws introduced in September, 2020 led to the farmers’ protest and it is still going on and has taken a bad shape.  The issue is that these Acts are being termed as ‘anti-farmer laws’ by many farmer unions and politicians from the opposition as it would leave farmers at the ‘mercy of corporates’. Hence the farmers have also requested for the creation of an MSP bill to ensure that corporates do not control prices. The government has been maintaining on its part that they will make it effortless for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers and urged that the protests are based on misinformation.

For this reason only the government called up farmers for talk and negotiations in order to resolve the dispute before they spiral out of control. So far 11 rounds of talks have happened and reached no where rather they came up with next level protest called ‘tractor rally’ on 26th January, which snowballed into a firestorm giving a big blow to peace and threatening the national security. The last round of talk ended with a note ‘we did what we could; now the ball is in your court’. The situation has worsened and now both sides have to mull over and pull back from the edge to break the impasse over their protest if things really have to move forward. Unfortunately 26th January tractor rally turned out violent in unprecedented manner, in which our national flag was dethroned from Red Fort and was replaced by one of the Farmer’s Union flag and the violence in different parts of Delhi left more than 300 police personnel injured and thrown water on the 58 days long peaceful protest of thousands of farmers.

Also read: Contemporary Issues in Labour Laws 

The government has already shown its flexible approach by suspending the implementation of the farm laws for one and half years and has offered to reach an agreement via negotiations during this period. But the farmers have been unyielding and resolute in their demand so far. The Supreme Court also took cognizance of these matters and stayed implementation of these Farms Laws and appointed a 3 member Committee to suggest amendments in these laws after taking public opinion.

Farm Protest
Pic: The Wire

For a better understanding of things we can look at the statistics and trace the trajectory of growth of agriculture in our country. Agriculture in India has grown by meager 1 percent per annum in the 50 years before independence while in the post–independence era the growth has been around 2.6 percent per annum which led it to become the world’s second-largest food producer. The reason behind this transformation could be largely due to the increase in area under cultivation and adoption of modern production technologies. Though agriculture happens to be India’s main occupation still its contribution to GDP lies around 17 per cent only. This is because farm productivity has almost stagnated. There is no scope to further increase the area under cultivation.

Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for half a billion of people which generates a monthly income of approximately Rs.6,000 to Rs.50 per person a day. It is this specific section of the farming community whose income from agriculture needs to be enhanced in order to stop the ongoing migration to the non-agriculture sector.Globally, the farmers have the right to decide the market price of his produce but the situation in India is very different. In India the prices are fixed by the intermediaries.

The agriculture sector has been predominantly under the impact of government interventions like MSP, seed, fertilizer subsidies over the years. These interventions were once needed for food security. So once it was achieved it should have been altered to enforce reforms to bring agriculture in tune with market demands, incentivize crop diversification and create infrastructure to modernize agriculture. But the reforms were not brought in unlike the economic boom of the 1990s which aided in opening up the economy. Thus the farm laws are nothing but the much-needed reforms that the agricultural sector required from a long time.

There is certain motto like processing to generate higher income from agri-produce which also calls for private investment. The quintessence of private investment is profit-making and for this to happen the investor ought to have a say in the sale of the agriculture produce. But this could be possible only when the investor has a legal agreement or ‘contract’ with the farmer-producer guaranteeing sale of produce at pre-decided quality, quantity and price.

This is what the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement On Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 actually provides for. So the Act in question basically proposes the investor to provide farm services in the form of technology infusion for achieving the desired production, protection against acquisition of farmer’s land and dispute redressal mechanism. Therefore all this proves that the apprehension of exploitation and dissatisfaction of not receiving right price of farmers by way of this Act is unsubstantiated. In fact, the farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 now gives liberty to the farmer-producers to decide and sell their produce to any trader or through any modern electronic platforms to any place at a price decided by them. The Act also sets the limit for payments and includes a dispute redressal system. This Act liberates the sector from the State APMC Acts which gave an opportunity to the middlemen to dictate prices and pocket a lion’s share of profits.

There is provision of warehouse for storing perishable agri-produce and make them available during the off-season when prices are high and maintain year-round supply of agri-law raw materials for processing factories. Therefore, keeping these requirements in mind, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act,2020 was passed to regulate the supply of certain foodstuffs only under extraordinary circumstances. This is to prevent the black marketers from taking the advantage of this well-intended law, a rider could have been added setting limits on the storage of directly-consumable products.

From all this we can see that the new farm laws are a much-needed and long-awaited reforms in the agricultural sector. The farmers’ leaders are agitating but are unable to explain the lacunas prevailing in these Acts. The argument that they’ve put forth that these laws would result in loss of state revenue is unfounded as the state cannot earn revenue by keeping farmers in perpetual poverty. If the farm laws are to be repealed, it would sound a death knell for the efforts to improve the agriculture sector.
The validity of these laws is challenged in the Hon’ble Supreme Court and is also under perusal at various High Courts.

Therefore, it is upto the Hon’ble Supreme Court to decide and question the competence of Parliament to enact these laws and under which entries. However, one amendment in section 5 (a) of the Farmers (Empowerment and Production) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 could be accommodated which might be helpful in settling down the existing controversy.

The new farm laws cumulatively seem like a very good package to bring the farmers and farming in this country in new era to compete with international standards. The government has extended the olive branch and the tone is set. Now, the farmers’ leaders should delve on this; they should understand the progressive aspect and benefits present laws would bring; respect and reciprocate accordingly.

Dr. Vidyottma Jha
Dr. Vidyottma Jha


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