Ever since the passage of farm bills in the parliament on 20th September 2020, there has been an uproar in the parliament and created protests across the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the bills would transform the agriculture sector and would also raise the farmers’ income by 2022. The Centre also said that the bills make the farmer independent of government-controlled markets and fetch them a better price for their produce.
The bill says it will create a system in which the farmers and traders can sell their purchases outside the Mandis and also encourage intra-state trade and this proposes to reduce the cost of transportation. The important point is that the Bill formulates a framework on the agreements that enable farmers to engage with agri-business companies, retailers, exporters for service and sale of produce while giving the farmer access to modern technology. The government also says that the new farm bills also provide benefits for the small and marginal farmers with less than five hectares of land. In the new bill, items such as cereals and pulses from the list of essential commodities and attract FDI.
The concept of One nation – one market can end the monopoly of ‘Agricultural Produce Market Committees‘(APMCs). The APMCs criminalizes the setting up of other competing markets because states made it mandatory for farmers to trade with only APMC-licensed traders. With the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce bill, farmers can sell the produce as per their choice without the middlemen, which is one of the main loopholes of AMPCs
There is a surplus of some vegetables and fruits in some states whereas in other states there is less supply and more demand for them. To balance this, though, through one nation-one market, corporate companies can bridge this gap benefiting the consumers.
More and more private investments will be poured into the agricultural industry thereby it can improve the infrastructure of the agricultural sector, which can lead to its modernization. Through this, the competition to buy the produce can fetch better prices for farmers and corporate companies even come to the farmers to take the produce, saving the transport costs for farmers.
As usual contract farming is helpful for farmers because they will get price assurance beforehand. Most companies provide seeds, fertilizers, and other requirements too, which will reduce the burden of input costs for farmers. The Essential commodities bill, 2020 can help in stabilizing the prices. For instance, if the onion supply is more than the demand, they can store them to prevent the price fall. With this, it will lead to better cold storage facilities in the country.
The manner in which the farm bills passed in the parliament is undemocratic. The center should consult with the states before passing the bill because Agriculture and trade are state subjects. The farmers, who are the main people for whom the bills are made, were not given the opportunity to voice their concerns. These bills were passed on a mere voice voting.
Agricultural Produce Market Committees are very helpful for small farmers not just to sell the produce but also to know the prices & production choices. APMC acts have been amended by many states to make it more liberal. Hence, the passing of farm bills 2020 may weaken the APMC system and hence can become a disadvantage to small farmers.
There is no guarantee that the farmers’ income will be increased by these bills if we follow the example of Bihar when the state abolished Agricultural Produce Market Committees in the year 2006, farmers got lower prices for their produce than the Minimum Support Price (MSP). Due to this, agricultural economists are suggesting that it is important to strengthen the APMCs, instead of transferring the responsibility to private entities.
The concept of One nation – one market may not be much useful to small farmers, because transporting the produce requires more expenditure than selling them at the nearest APMC.
Contract farming may turn farmers into slaves.
Removing the restrictions on the storage of some foodgrains may lead to more imports at cheaper prices affecting the domestic farmers. Also, big corporate houses may store the foodgrains to increase the prices artificially. Unless the prices are regulated by the government, the market will go into the hands of big businesses putting both the farmers and the consumers at the risk of exploitation
Last but the least, the way the bills are passed created mistrust in farmers on government sidelining the positive sides of the bills such as the opportunity to modernize the Indian agricultural sector. The government should take the responsibility to take the opinions of farmers and also of the states before passing such bills. In addition, the main thing to do to ensure the betterment of farmers is strengthening the government market spaces – APMCs and to eliminate the loopholes in them.
So, the pertinent question: Do you think Farm Bills 2020 can increase the income of farmers? Don’t forget to express your view in the comment section below. And also please subscribe to Hello Vizag online news portal
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