The world and its people have protested for their rights even before they got aware of this seven letter word PROTEST. Protests have been seen generally in cases where people are not satisfied with some Government policies, so they gather and raise their voices to reach to the supremacy of the nation and try to get it modified within days. It is an incorrect and very unethical form of raising voices, yet this attitude has been witnessed in all the parts of the globe.
After the Farm Bill was announced in September, 2020, the same kinds of responses have been seen from the farmers, particularly from Punjab and Haryana. Now let us understand what this Bill is all about, what forced farmers to come on roads to protest and in reality, are these bills beneficial and misinterpreted, or there is something fishy that lies within.
Bill contains three laws namely
- The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
- The Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment Bill), 2020
The first bill, as the name suggests is about trading of agro-commodities which in return could bring in investments to this sector. This trading could be done inside the state within different districts (Intrastate), inside the country within different states (Interstate) and also includes interested private partners like big giants. Agro commodities also involve the allied sectors of agriculture including fishery, poultry, livestock, horticulture, forestry and others.
This bill would provide an extra edge to the farmers who could earlier sell their produce only in the APMC or the local Mandis. The farmer paid the transportation costs along with many taxes that existed inside the APMCs. Also, a perfect Monopolistic environment could be seen in these Mandis as all the traders would pre decide a price and charge them the same. The farmers were left with no option but to sell their commodities at the asked price. We could see here that farmers had no control over deciding the prices, yet we used to call this process as trade, which in real sense is only a negotiation from the farmers’ side. Hence, if the farmers are allowed to sell their produce to anyone they want, in any place they wish, and to any mandi within the country, which is according to the laws of the first bill, it would certainly be a great boon to the farmers.
Decoding the Second Law, which is about giving the power to the farmers to agree for the prices they wish to. This Law is an extension to the first law where the farmers could sell their produce to the private partners who demand for a particular quantity, quality and species of the crop in bulk. Since India is a small and marginalised farmer country, hence contract farming could be the solution. The farmers who were uncertain of the prices of the crop after harvest could now enter into a Forward contract and pre-decide the value of their products.
The Essential Commodities Act first came in 1955 and has been amended several times in history including 2020. The unmodified law stated that only a limited amount of commodity could be procured, supplied, held, moved or distributed until a case of any emergency arrives. It was done to remove excess trading and arbitraging of commodities. But the need of contract farming and trading with the firms has aroused the necessity to procure farm produce in a large quantity and also to keep the stock in bulk. It has also been brought so as to ease the business in India.
Now coming back to the question, why protest then?
There is a fear among the farmers that as the contracts made are Forward contracts and not Future contracts, i.e., they are not regulated by NCDEX, rather by different private firms. So there is a big lack of faith that exists among them. Farmers fear that the big giants being on the superior side could play with them, and won’t pay the asked price. And farmers on the weaker side won’t be able to register a complaint against them. But, as the name of the Second Law suggests, Empowerment and Protection Law, in which a different bench has been setup to register the complaints in case of any discrepancy caused by either side. This bench would be governed by the state law at the primary level, and includes the law to give the justice within a period of 6 months. Hence, there lies a very less chance for any discrepancy in the system. But this could completely be removed if the Government sets up standard rules and regulations that have to be followed by all the firms, and any other provision other than them could be considered null and void under the eye of Indian law.
Considering all the points, figures and facts, if asked, I am in support of the bill as it has the potential to bring revolution in agriculture thereby bringing prosperity in this huge sector. But yes, I am totally against it when the political agendas are taken into consideration. And that is why I hate protests, because almost every time, leaving the main agenda behind, these protests enters into some kind of venial interest of some political party that begins to take a very different shape all the way.