What Is The Farmer's Protest All About?

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It's been a while since the farmer's protests started. The protest is making big headlines not only in India but it has expanded globally. Since 26th November 2020, the borders of Delhi have been witnessing a huge agitation being carried out by farmers, most of them from Punjab and Haryana.

 

The farmers are protesting against 2 Farm Bills that the Rajya Sabha recently passed:

(1) the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and

(2) the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.

The two bills had already cleared the lower house – the Lok Sabha. When they were introduced in the Rajya Sabha, there was ruckus and finally, the Bill was passed through a voice vote.

 

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020:
This Bill allows the farmers to sell their produce outside the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) regulated markets. The APMCs are government-controlled marketing yards or mandis. So, the farmers clearly have more choice on who they want to sell. The government's logic, economic expert Gurcharan Das writes in TOI, is that the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) is an obsolete institution from an age of scarcity, meant to protect the farmer but has now become his oppressor, a monopoly cartel fixing low prices for the farmers' produce, forcing distress sales.

 

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020:
This Bill makes provisions for the setting up of a framework for contract farming. The farmer and an ordained buyer can strike a deal before the production happens. 
According to PRS India, a "Standing Committee on Agriculture (2018-19)" observed the APMC laws needed reforms as cartelization had begun to crystallise due to a limited no. of traders in APMC mandis. Therefore the following law was passed in September 2020. 

 

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020: 
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of APMC markets.  State governments are prohibited from levying any market fee, cess or levy outside APMC areas.

 

What does the government say?

The government has been firm that the new laws are going to bring an ecosystem that will give farmers the freedom of choice to sell and purchase their produce inter-state and intra-state.

The Centre said that it will be beneficial to not only farmers but also traders and consumersThe government has also said that farmers will be able to engage in direct marketing of their crops.

 

What do farmers fear?

Farmers across the country are apprehensive that if the new bills become law, they will not get the Minimum Support Price (commonly known as MSP) they have been demanding from the government for months, as the proposed legislation does not specify any method of determining the “guaranteed price” farmers will get.

They fear the government will no longer continue the procurement of farm produce at MSP. Mandis, where farmers have been selling their produce until now, will cease to function as big private players will dictate prices of farm produce. As a result, these very big companies will be in advantage in case of disputes.

 

What are the provisions under the new laws?

* Farmers will be to enter into a contract with processors, wholesalers, aggregators, large retailers and exporters directly so as to realise the full price of the produce.

* Farmers be rest-assured of the price of their produce even before sowing of crops.

* Farmers will not be charged any cess or transport cost at the time of sale.

* Farmers will get access to modern technology, better seed and other inputs that enable better growth of the produce.

 

It is still uncertain what the outcome will be, the ongoing " Dilli Chalo" Slogan is booming across the country, after farmers failing to get the support of their respective state governments, they decided to  pressure the Central government by marching to Delhi. This protests also led to involvement of the Supreme Court. The latter received numerous petitions seeking direction to remove protesting farmers from blocking access routes to the capital. 

 

Fallout:

Over 150 telecom towers were vandalised on the 26 and 27 of December 2020 in Punjab, bringing the total to over 1300 damaged telecom towers. Specifically, Reliance Jio towers are being targeted, however common access telecom infrastructure has also been affected. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to the farmers to stop. Large number of farmers also ported their telecommunication services from Reliance Jio to other rival networks alleging that the Modi government was introducing the law to favor corporate overlords like Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani.

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