Hitting the streets

Representational Image. Photo source: twitter / @FDI_org

Recently the Union Government passed three Agricultural reform laws, which were rammed by the parliament during its monsoon session and received the President’s assent and turned them into laws. After that, farmers across the country hit the streets and showed their anger against the Union Government, by blockading main highways around New Delhi. Last week, the farmers held a one-day nationwide strike, which was supported by all Trade Union Bodies, Transporters and Fruit Growers, in a bid to force the Union Government to repeal its new agricultural farm laws. However, few rounds of talks between farmers and the Union Government have failed to make any breakthrough. Farmers have decided not to return home until the Government of India repealed the laws, as print and electronic media reported.

     The Government has a firm belief that the three agricultural reform laws like, Trade and Commerce, Farmers Empowerment and Protection, Agreement of Price Assurance, Farm Services and the Essential Commodities Amendment Act, will accelerate the growth and stability, through private partnership programme, to build the infrastructure and supply for larger produce in global and national commerce. The farmers will get a better price for their annual produce, which will make the agricultural sector more efficient and reliable. Besides, the law will bring the system for inter and intra state purchase, as farmers will enter into a contract with big corporates like processors and aggregators. No transportation charges will be charged on the farmers at the time of sales, as the government will put deregulated and notified markets on a level playing field in terms of taxes. The Government is promising the farmers that a written assurance will be given, that the existing system of marketing under Minimum Support Price (MSP) will not be tampered and no sale of land, lease or transfer will be allowed, to safeguard the interest of farmers.

    Meanwhile the amalgam of farmers believes that the laws will open the sale and marketing of agricultural produce outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC). Further, the new farm laws will allow inter-state trade and encourage voluntary electronic trading of agricultural produce, by which farmers have apprehension that they will not get the Minimum Support price (MSP), as they fear that the Government will not continue to purchase the farm produce like wheat and paddy, which in turn will eliminate Minimum Support price. This will hit their economic stability and growth. Some farmers call it a conspiracy to pull out the small farmers, so that big corporations take over it gradually, and swoop in the present market to gain larger profits, as sizable and sustainable procurement only really happens for wheat and paddy in North western regions, like Punjab and Haryana. Some farmers call it an end to notified markets, besides a death knel to Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime. According to print media reports, the root of this anger and protest is the deep distrust of market reforms, as the farmer community is mostly small or marginal, as only 68% of the farmers own less than one hectare of land. Besides only 6% of them actually receive guaranteed price support for their crops, and more than 90% of the farmers sell their produce in the market.

Tailpiece

The ongoing strike has cut off the capital city from neighboring states, by which the business community is facing hardships, as after the lockdown small and large scale industries are trying to re-establish themselves. The Government must hold a special session of the Parliament and discuss the matter with higher degree of urgency. People hope that the future round of talks will move towards finality. The officials must reach out to protesting farmers over their demands, and listen to their suggestions and concerns. If the law is problematic in the public domain, the government must hold a few more rounds of talks to find a mutually accepted solution as people are waiting for a resolution of the farmer’s problem.