Recently (as usual) there was some drama over the passing of three agriculture focussed bills. The bills were passed easily through the Lok Sabha but when it came to Rajya Sabha we were witness to some legendary scenes of members of the opposition throwing rule books at the deputy chairman of the house, MP’s being thrown out of the house using house marshals, etc. So what are the bills which led to the drama? Let us see.
Bill number one was The Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Bill 2020., bill number two: The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill 2020. And bill number 3: Essential Commodities(Amendment) Act 2020. So what do these bills are about? These bills seek to abolish the role of the state-run Agricultural Produce Market Committee(APMC), reducing the role of middle-men who would buy at low prices from the APMC run markets and enable direct entry of corporates to secure sales of crops.
So prima-facie it sounds like a win-win for farmers but why are the farmers in Haryana and Punjab protesting so much? It has to do with the fact that Punjab and Haryana are the major farmers of Rice and wheat. While wheat is the staple of much of north India while the rice consumption historically has been lower. So if the sale is made in an open market, the big farmers of Punjab and Haryana growing paddy are worried that they might take huge losses due to lower demand. Other states are kind of supporting the bill as they feel corporate involvement will lead to better storage, fairer price discovery, and as a result, increased incomes for the farmers. The govt’s role would be only to regulate the market instead of directly involved in buying unsold inventory. And any which ways only 22 crops are listed by govt for Minimum Support Price(MSP) and on top of the list would be paddy and wheat.
Frankly speaking, I have little knowledge when it comes to the farming sector in India but it does sound like a reform towards a system in Europe and the USA but the govt. Needs to have enough checks and balances to ensure that like in Europe and The USA there are huge farm subsidies by the govt. Due to a fall in farmer incomes. And this is where my objection to the bills come. The Govt. refused to have any sort of discussion on the bills in the Parliament. I would have personbally liked a debate in the parliament where we could have gleamed the actual objections, pitfalls of the bill vs the advantages of the reforms but alas this govt. chose to bulldoze its way through the p[arliament.