With the passing of the new farm bills in the parliament, farmers were earlier protesting in their respective states of Punjab and Haryana. Now they have decided to protest in Delhi. They are sitting in Delhi and are demanding of repealing all the bills that were passed. But what is the bill is about? Why farmers are opposing it? In this blog, I would try to explore the answers to the questions and also will try to understand the problem of agriculture as well.
So first thing first let’s first try to understand what the bills that are being opposed
- Essential goods commodities Amendment Act: The bill talks about the de regularization of production and storage of several foodstuffs including cereals, pulses, and edible oil. The government will only intervene in an emergency situation like war, famine, extraordinary price rise, etc.
- Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation Bill): This would allow farmers to sell their produce outside the APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee ) mandis without paying any state tax or fees.
- Farmers Empowerment and Protection Agreement Price Assurance and Farm services bill: This would facilitate contract farming and direct marketing.
Problems in the agriculture sector
Now before we would analyze the three bills lets first understand the basic problem of Indian farmers.
- Raising the productivity level of land: The challenge is to increase the per-unit productivity of the land. Water is very scant and the overutilization of groundwater further puts pressure on the groundwater level.
- Dependence of agriculture in the rural economy: There are many marginalized sections who depend on agriculture. Some of them work as labour in the field. So when the season is over or once they have done their jobs they have to look for other job opportunities.
- The loss that the farmers had to bear: Unfortunately farmers had to sell their produce in the loss as they lack storage space and also bargain skills. So neither they can store and keep them safe from rotting nor they can bargain about the price.
- The green revolution had helped the country to achieve self-sufficiency in food grain and we had observed growth in the agriculture sector during the 70s and 80s but in the 90s this trend started to decline and agriculture suffered after this.
With such challenges, the investment that a farmer would put in his produce will fetch him the loss. Due to this farmers mostly cannot pay back the loan and they suffer from anxiety and depression and eventually they kill themselves.
Demerits in the new farm bills.
As I mentioned earlier we need to understand whether these bill would help the farmers.
- In the new proposed farm bills, we do not find any mention of MSP which creates suspicion that MSP might be abolished. MSP is the minimum support price that a farmer would get as decided by the CACP. The government would protect the interest of farmers by buying the crops. MSP has been assigned to 23 crops but the government only buys paddy, wheat, and pulses. Only 6% of farmers are able to sell their crops at MSP.
- In contract farming, the dialogue would happen between two unequal partners that are a sponsor and the illiterate farmer had to employ middlemen for the deal which would increase their operational cost. In such cases, farmers don’t stand a chance.
- Legal battle: In such cases, legal battles are inclined towards the big corporate houses. The strong lawyer can turn the case in favour of the sponsor now with the new bill the irony is that farmers cannot fight a legal battle. The dispute has to resolve at the SDM level. This would give more pressure on the SDM and it would neither be in favour of farmers and SDM.
- By abolishing APMC and the mandi tax the state government would have to bear the loss in the revenue collection. Bihar is one example that after the abolishing of the APMC Bihari farmers have not gained.
There are certain things that one needs to talk about.
The protest could have been avoided if the government would be sensitive and such a shameful incident that happened in the parliament could be avoided. The manner in which the bill was passed in the monsoon session creates suspicion. Before drafting the bill why the stakeholders were not consulted. Also when farmers were peacefully protesting the government tried to suppress the protest with an iron fist. Such an attitude of arrogance would not benefit them in the future.
Right now we are seeing the trend that any protest that happens in the country is being discredited. The right to protest is the fundamental right that I mentioned here. The farmers are protesting for their rights. They have a demand for universal MSP. I am hopeful that the negotiation that is going on between farmers and the government would certainly bring hope to the farmers. In my opinion, in such reform, it is better if the government is the guarantor to the farmers and the self-interest of the farmer is protected.
PS: If you want further more blogs on this topic do write in the comment section.