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Farm Bills, 2020: A ‘Systematic trap’ to catch farm produce by big corporations on their own terms

Senior SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who on Thursday (September 17) resigned from the Union cabinet soon after her husband and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal opposed farm bills in Lok Sabha, claiming that these proposed legislations will destroy the agriculture sector in Punjab

The Monsoon Session of the Lok Sabha passed three agriculture sector bills which will replace the existing ordinances once they are passed by the Rajya Sabha and sent to President for signature also

Two bills of agriculture were also passed in the Rajya Sabha yesterday.

During this time, the opposition kept looking at how the bill will be passed if the government does not have the number.

In the meantime, the bill was passed by voice vote and the opposition continued to create chaos.

MPs reach Vail shouting slogans and tear up the rule book

The bills are namely; Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce(Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, Farmer (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

All the three bills are claimed to create favourable ecosystem for barrier free trade of farm outputs, better bargaining powers to farmers by allowing them to sell their produce anywhere in India or online at mutually agreed upon prices without any intermediaries such as Mandis, removed a few commodities from essential commodities regulations thereby the private sectors are done away with stockholding limits and regulatory interference.

Government also envisages the mounting MSP and open-ended procurement prevents farmers from moving out of grain and into other crops hence could benefit even more, if they diversify from grain to fruit, vegetables, fodder, flowers or animal husbandry

To sum up, the trade theories so relied upon are barrier free market, competitive market with no monopoly position by any buyer, removal of intermediaries, contract farming to name a few

While the ruling dispensation appears to have the numbers despite strong opposition from the Congress and other parties to clear the Bills, some key BJP leaders are said to be in touch with various regional outfits to seek support from their Upper House members for these bills

Congress in Rajyasabha asserted that it will “not sign on the death warrant”

Despite all the glitter why then such a huge opposition from the farmer guilds and opposition ?

Big corporations are potential buyers and possibly allow the induction of FDI in farm sector which eventually fail the Indian farm model thereby the well off companies will speak their terms as farmers can no way equated to financial, legal and operational strength of such buyers

Big companies will have the freedom to stock commodities- it means they will dictate terms to farmers which may lead to less prices for the cultivators

The law that regularises contract farming creates a bureaucrat-led dispute settlement mechanism and removes farmer-buyer contracts out of the ambit of civil courts thereby placing farmers and traders at the mercy of civil servants

The bills violates the states’ right to decide on intra-state commerce in agriculture

Farmers fear that these reforms sound the death knell of the cosy arrangement of ever-rising Minimum Support Prices (MSP) and open-ended procurement (although confined to a few states)

Giving farmers choice to sell without the help of middlemen is of use only if there are roads that connect villages to markets, climate-controlled storage facilities await their produce, electricity supply is reliable and available to power those facilities and food processing companies compete to buy their produce

Most farmers in India are too small to take a meaningful part in market-driven agriculture. They need to be organised into cooperatives and farmer-producer companies or weaned off the land and employed in a dynamic urban sector

The urban to rural income at the time of Independence was 2:1. The ratio has now risen to 7:1 therefore the objectives i.e. to increase farm income and well-being of even the smallest farmers in India need to be connected to the core functions the bills once passed are intended to perform and also to tide in all the stakeholders to the very objectives at any cost.

Tushar Singh Sengar
A writing enthusiast and a keen observer. Through this platform i have envisioned to deliver authentic stories and information of public importance.

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