Published: 04th December 2020
Farmers' Protest 2020 Decoded: Everything you need to know about new Farm Bills, controversy
The Parliament passed three agricultural bills in September this year to reform the way agricultural produce is marketed. The three bills were made into acts with the President's nod
The farmers' protests have reached its ninth day and people from all walks of life have joined in. Students have been a major supporter of the movement. But more often than not, we see people on TV attending protests without proper knowledge of what they are protesting. We don't want that. So here are the basics you should know before you decide to join the protests, or not.
Here's the latest update
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal, in their talks with the protesting farmers Thursday said that they might be up for tweaking the laws a bit but will definitely not scrap them. They said that they might consider implementing equal taxes for APMC mandis and private markets, register of private traders and allow the farmers to appeal to higher courts when it comes to contract farming issues where the private sector investment will be involved.
What are the Farm Bills 2020?
The Indian Parliament passed three agricultural bills in September this year to reform the way agricultural produce is marketed. The three bills were made into acts with the President's nod — Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also called these reforms a watershed moment in Indian agriculture.
What do they intend to do?
While the farmers are protesting the three farm acts and call it anti-farmer, the government has always maintained that the reform will help make it smoother for the farmers to sell their produce. The government wants to implement these laws to bring in corporate investment in the form of contracts. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 assures the farmer of providing a legal framework for them to enter into pre-arranged contracts with buyers including the pricing. This, the government says, will help the farmers strike a better deal.
The farmers are afraid that the corporates will twist and turn words to bind them in an unfavourable contract just like moneylenders made bonded labourers out of workers. They feel it would be very hard for a farmer to always understand the ramifications of the contract that he is signing.
The government said that the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 lets the farmer sell anywhere he wants to, even online. It also stops the state government from imposing any tax or fee for these transactions. Sounds great, right?
But the farmers are scared that this might also lead to corporatisation of the entire agricultural market and the prices can be driven up or down by the corporates. States like Punjab and Harayana, who are supporting the protest also have a lot at stake if the state governments are not allowed to levy taxes and fees. Punjab will lose around Rs 3,500 crore and Haryana Rs 1,600 crore every year.
Will it affect you?
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 removes food grains, potato, onions and other perishable food from the list of essential items unless there is a war, famine or extraordinary situation. It also allows one to stock up as much s you want unless the price of perishable goods doubles or there is a 50 per cent increase in the price of non-perishable goods. What does this mean? Supermarkets and corporate firms in the business can stock up, this will reduce the supply in the market while the demand stays the same. This will drive the price up — more demand causes people to drive the prices higher as they want the goods and they are willing to pay more if they are able to get it. The corporates will then release their stock when the prices are higher. Make a profit and essentially drive down the price. So yes, it will affect you as your food might get more expensive and as a chain reaction everything will become expensive.
But the crux of the matter is that the proposition and intended outcome are not all bad but the stakeholders are worried that the implementation of the laws will not be proper and thus will lead to misuse more than the use of the laws which will essentially exploit the farmers. The farmers currently sell at a Minimum Selling Price or MSP which, the activists and farmers think will not be met even though its a measly amount, if these reforms are made.