Digest: Union government introduced new farm bill ’20

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In midst of COVID-19 chaos, both the houses passed Farm bills on improving the situation of the farmer in India. However, the opposite party has shown dissent against the bills. According to Congress, the way farm bills passed in Rajya Sabha shows a decline in the culture of Legislative Scrutiny. The opposition party had accused BJP favouring ‘corporate market’, however, the ruling party think otherwise.

“For decades, the Indian farmer was bound by various constraints and bullied by middlemen. The bills passed by Parliament liberate the farmers from such adversities”
—Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a Twitter post
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The three bills comprise of; Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation), Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance.

Earlier under the Agriculture Producing Market Committee (APMC) act passed in 1964, it was compulsory for the farmers to sell the produce to the regulated market, mandis, middlemen, or state-run private players. The farmers were forbidden from selling products directly to the end-user. However, with the introduction of the new bill, now, farmers can be expected a barrier-free market and can enter into agreements with private players for the sale of agriculture produce even before production.

The government says the monopoly of APMC mandis will end however, they will not be shut down completely, and that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) the price at which the government buys farm produce will not be scrapped. Also, the farmer will have the choice to sell the produce anywhere in the country, in contrast to the earlier situation where inter-state trade was not allowed.

Why farmer is protesting against the bill?

On contrary, the farmers, especially from the northern states of India like Punjab and Haryana, insisted the new bill is ‘anti-farmer’ which shall further degrade the farmer’s crisis, critically affecting commission agents and farm labourers too. The bill Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) is an issue of major controversy. The farmers say the government has left us on the mercy of corporate bulls. They believe it is preposterous to believe that farmers who have small land-holdings will have any bargaining power over private players.

“They cheated. They broke every rule in Parliament. It was a historic day. In the worst sense of the word. They cut RSTV feed so the country couldn’t see. They censored RSTV. Don’t spread propaganda. We have evidence,”
—Trinamool Congress’s Derek O’Brien tweeted.
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According to reports, at least 13 opposition parties, including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, TRS, Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party, Aam Aadmi Party, RJD, Janata Dal (Secular), TDP, CPI(M) and CPI, and even Biju Janata Dal, which is friendly to the BJP, opposed or had misgivings about the bills. They have earlier urged the government to form committee review to sort out confusions and differences with the provisions. However, it all went in vain.

Certainly, the bills are not going to hit all the farmers equally. It’s going to help some and hurt others. The ambiguity shall remain until things will become more clear through implementation at ground zero.

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