Modi Government’s farm bills have been muzzled through Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha amid massive opposition by Indian farmers and opposition.
In the heart of the protests are three bills—the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.
The first charge is that the new bills will leave the farmers vulnerable to manipulation by the private sector. When the government relinquishes its responsibility, the free market will lead to less income security for farmers and safety nets—such as the MSP (minimum support price) mechanism and regular procurement through APMC (Agricultural Produce and Marketing Committee) mandis—will be compromised.
The second charge is that the new amendments will lead to large scale corporatization of agriculture and contract farming, which are detrimental to the interests of the farmers. Farmers will be at the mercy of capitalists. The MSP system will be abolished and it will lead to monopolization of agri-trade.
The third charge is that the farmers do not have the financial and other skills to negotiate with the corporates for remunerative prices for their produces. Moreover, the proposed amendments will virtually abolish the APMCs and will allow ‘free hands’ to the corporates to regulate the market.
The fourth charge is that since agriculture is a state subject in the Constitution, the Modi Government didn’t have a proper discussion with the state governments before finalizing these amendments, which against the spirit of our federal system. The states will lose agriculture revenue and power to regulate the markets. Trade is a concurrent list subject and agriculture marketing is a state subject. As per the new amendments, the state will lose both of these rights and have no right to levy market fees, cesses, levies on farmers, traders and other market players.
The fifth and the final charge is that the new amendments negate the rights of the farmers to go judicial courts to settle the disputes related to farming, trade and marketing. It suggests that the states are to constitute a ‘conciliation board’, with district collectors as the final appellate authority.