The three controversial farm bills which were passed in the monsoon session of Parliament were given assent by President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday.
THE THREE BILLS
- The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
- Farmers will be allowed to practice agricultural sales outside the mandis which are under Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC).
- Prohibition will be imposed on State Governments against the collection of market fee outside the markets of APMC.
- Direct online buying and selling i.e. electronic trading will be permitted in the specified area.
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection)Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020
- A farming agreement can be agreed upon between a farmer and a buyer beforehand and farmers will be paid after the completion of the agreement.
- The agreement should contain the price of farming production and the process of price determination.
- A fair and balanced conciliation board and a conciliation process should be mentioned in the agreement.
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- The supply of certain food commodities will be regulated by the Central Government, only in the case of extreme circumstances such as war or famines.
- Agricultural produce may be subjected to stock limits only if the rise in price is steep.
Availability of buyers
Buyers will have the freedom to directly purchase the farmers’ produce without the procedure of paying fees to APMCs or without a license. The bills aim at developing better price rates for farmers’ produce as a result of the increase in competition among the buyers who will be free to purchase the produce without any license or stock limits. However, this may not be sufficient to increase the number of buyers.
In 2006, Bihar annulled its APMC Act to increase private investment in the farmers’ produce. It was noted by The Committee of State Ministers that for an organised functioning of markets it is important to establish an appropriate legal and institutional structure. It was recommended by The Standing Committee on Agriculture (2018-2019) that marketing infrastructure should be established by the Central Government in states which do not contain APMC Markets.
It is to be noted that the bills only limit the authority of APMCs to the markets under their control and do not annul the APMC laws, as was done by Bihar. The farmers who will be selling their produce outside the APMC markets can see the prices prevailing in the APMC markets as a benchmark price. This will enable farmers to discover a better price.
WHAT IS THE REASON BEHIND THE PROTESTS?
Minimum Support Prices (MSP) is a guaranteed price fixed by the Government Of India to protect the farmers from a financial crisis in times of sharp fall in the prices of farm produce. No trade can take place at prices below the MSPs. APMCs can regulate the trading process of the farm produce but now the buyers will be allowed to purchase the produce directly without providing fees or taxes to the APMCs. This is being looked upon by some critics as demolition of the assured turnover of the produce at MSPs.
The Price Assurance Bill does not specify as to how will the price fixation be regulated. The opposition is arguing that the freedom given to Private Investment can lead to farmers’ exploitation.
According to the Essential Commodities (Amendment), Ordinance commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions, potatoes, and edible oils will be removed from the list of essential commodities. The protestors argue, since there will be no requirement of licenses in these commodities, the bills would lead to the legalisation of hoarding.
RUCKUS IN RAJYA SABHA
Last week, Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP’s oldest ally, left the government as a protest against the bills. The Opposition was denied the request for division and the demand to send the bills to a selection committee had to face rejection by a voice vote. Former Lok Sabha secretary general PDT Acharya said, “It was a horrendous mistake. Procedural irregularities do occur but this is the first time there has been a constitutional irregularity”. Eight opposition MPs — Derek O Brien, Syed Nazir Hussain, Elamaran Kareem, Sanjay Singh, Ripun Bora, Dola Sen, KK Rajesh, and Rajiv Satav were suspended from the Rajya Sabha proceedings on Monday, 21 September. Violent and unruly behavior were the reasons for the suspension. 33 members of Congress out of 107 were absent on the day. If the Opposition had better attendance then voting could have been a better course while sitting in their seats. It was highlighted that according to the rulebook every member had to be in his/her allocated seat for voting or division (as demanded by the Opposition) to take place.
While the Opposition protests the Bills claiming that the Farm Bills are Anti-Farmers, the Government argues that the Opposition is trying to instill confusion and misunderstanding among the people.