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Why are the framers protesting and how the government should deal with protesting farmers?

Topics Covered: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

Why are the framers protesting and how the government should deal with protesting farmers?


Context:

Farmer protests against the three new agriculture-related laws have gathered momentum.

The controversy pertains to:

  1. ‘Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020′
  2. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020′ and
  3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020.

What’s the issue?

A set of three laws passed in September aims to deregulate India’s enormous agriculture sector.

  • The government says these laws will “liberate” farmers from the tyranny of middlemen.
  • But many farmers fear that they stand to lose more than they could gain from the new regulations and that the main beneficiaries will be agricultural corporations with gargantuan financial firepower.

So what do India’s new farm laws do?

  1. They make it easier for farmers to bypass government-regulated markets (known locally as mandis) and sell produce directly to private buyers.
  2. They can now enter into contracts with private companies, a practice known in India as contract farming, and sell across state borders.
  3. The new regulations also allow traders to stockpile food. This is a shift away from prohibitions against hoarding, which could make it easier for traders to take advantage of rising prices, such as during a pandemic. Such practices were criminal offences under the old rules.

Concerns of farmers:

More than 86 percent of India’s cultivated farmland is controlled by smallholder farmers who own less than two hectares (five acres) of land each.

  • The new rules remove many of their safeguards. Small farmers fear that they just do not have enough bargaining power to get the kinds of prices they need for a decent standard of living when they negotiate to sell their produce to larger companies.
  • The new laws also do not make written contracts mandatory. So in the case of any violation of their terms, it can be very hard for a farmer to prove that he or she has been aggrieved, giving them little recourse.
  • The new rules do not guarantee any minimum price for any product, and farmers worry that the existing MSP will be abolished at some point.

How the government should deal with protesting farmers?

There is a gross communication failure on the part of the central government to explain to farmers what these laws are, and how they are intended to benefit them.

  1. The apprehension about MSP and procurement going away comes from Acts being linked to some previous policy documents like the Shanta Kumar Committee report and the CACP reports suggesting reduced procurement and an end to open-ended procurement from states like Punjab to cut down costs of FCI.
  2. It is feared that FCI itself may start procuring directly from the new trade area to cut down buying costs like market fees and arhtiya commission.
  3. It is more about the changes in the “social contract” between the state’s farmers and the Union government that is the root cause of this apprehension.

The government should address these concerns first.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What are APMCs? How they are regulated?
  2. Overview of Model Contract farming act.
  3. The price range fluctuation allowed in the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
  4. Stock limit regulation under the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 will not be applicable for?
  5. Other key Provisions of the bills.

Mains Link:

Do you think the reforms proposed for agricultural sector under the realm of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan ensure better price realization for farmers? Elucidate.

Sources: Indian Express.