Recently the country witnessed three bills being passed by the parliament Farmer’s Produce and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, Farmer’s (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farmer Services Bill and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.
People are questioning in the way these bills were passed but the main question is whether the farmers are benefitting from the same or not. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been constantly protesting these bills. However, many farmer organizations have different ideologies against these bills, some are in support of the reform, and some are not. Many farmers agree that that the current functioning of the ‘Mandis’ is not efficient, per se it is not transparent. It is also believed that the current system is influenced by certain political parties.
Reasons why farmers are protesting:
- Farmers argue that the role of ‘Mandis’ should be reinstituted because it forms an essential part of the agricultural ecosystem. They also say that the ‘Mandis’ and middlemen are not only a part of economic transaction, but it is beyond that.
- Farmers argue that the middlemen act as a source of information to them and often allows them credit.
- And at last the way in which these bills were passed by the government which has invited immense criticism.
Questioning the government for its actions is not wrong but spreading rumours and myths about something has long term effects. Farmers have the right to put forth their point of view, but some farmers are being misguided about these bills. The common misconceptions about the bills are:
Myth: The bills are anti farmer, and no protection is being offered to them.
Reality: The Bill will provide more choices to the farmer. They can sell their crops to anyone, even outside the ‘Mandi’ to the big corporations which would allow them to earn more profit.
Myth: APMC ‘Mandis’ will end.
Reality: Market system would be same as before.
Myth: Capitalists will acquire farmer’s land.
Reality: The bill clearly prohibits lease, sale and mortgage of farmer’s land. The agreement would be for crops not for the land.
Myth: Advantage to corporate giants not to the farmers.
Reality: Many farmers are already being benefitted from the corporate giants. However now small farmers can benefit from these corporates in terms of technology and equipment with assured profits to the farmers.
Myth: These corporate giants will exploit farmers.
Reality: The contract would guarantee farmers with fixed prices for their crops. Farmers can also withdraw themselves at any point from the contract without any penalty.
Myth: This bill is passed to refrain farmers from getting MSP’s
Reality: There is nothing changed regarding MSP’s in these bills. Farmers would be entitled to the MSP’s same as before.
If everything seems fine, then what is the problem?
It seems unclear for the farmers as how this will playout. Farmers are already selling to corporate giants but what this bill does is that it will provide a national framework.
For instance, some farmers believe that during the initial years corporate giants would offer a good price to them and after some years when the role of ‘Mandis’ start to diminish, the corporate giants would start to exploit them.
One of the main reasons why farmers are protesting against these bills are that, they think that eventually it might lead to an end of wholesale markets and there will be no backup option available to them if they are not satisfied with the price offered to them in the market.
Farmers demand that the MSP should be added in the legal framework as there is no statutory backing to MSP.
However, the government has clearly said the Mandi system will continue and MSP will be provided similarly to the current system. The last agricultural reform that India had witnessed was the Green Revolution. Green Revolution itself had many flaws but however it benefitted to many. There is a need to introduce a regulated market in place off the free market. Free market allows people to maximize profits but however in course of maximizing people tend to forget about sustainability. Regulated market aims to bring profits and sustainability together.
**Mandi: market or a place to sell.
**MSP: Minimum Support Price
**APMC: Agriculture Produce Market Committee
Reality of farm bill