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Farmers’ Protest: Big Concerns and Problems

Jai jawan, Jai Kisaan? Sounds familiar? Are you SURE about it?

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government coined the two farm bills passed by Parliament on Sunday to liberalize the agricultural sector as “historic”, but farmers’ groups and activists locked horns with them and alleged the bills will create a system lacking adequate oversight and make cultivators defenceless and susceptible to exploitation.

When seen closely, even if the farmer protests against the three new agriculture-related laws, one thing seems pretty pretty obvious – much of the opposition really is just to one of the three laws. Even in that one – the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act) – which might leave the doors open to hanging negotiations.

During the 1960s, APMCs were originally meant to protect farmers from distress selling by creating a system of notified markets that records all transactions and prices. Over time, however, these have often acted as monopolies, evidence suggests.

“The govt is abdicating all oversight responsibility since it is not prescribing a system of registration of all traders of farmers’ produce,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture.

“Nor does it want to build a price intelligence system even as it weakens the mandi system. How and when will it intervene then?”

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Credit: Aljazeera – Farmers’ protest

Why is any of this a problem?

Farmers have some serious questions to ask away.

A big one is that the new rules remove a lot of their safety nets. More than 86 per cent of India’s cultivated farmland is controlled by smallholder farmers who own less than two hectares (five acres) of land each. They fear that they would just not have enough bargaining power left to get the kinds of prices they need for a decent standard of living when they negotiate to sell their produce to larger companies.

“It is preposterous to believe that farmers who have small landholdings will have any bargaining power over private players,” says Aljazeera.

What has the government said?

Modi government just dismissed the farmers’ fears as misplaced and blamed opposition political parties for spreading false rumours regarding the fate of farmers under the newly laid laws.

“The new agricultural laws have been brought in for benefit of the farmers. We will see and experience benefits of these new laws in the coming days,” Modi said on Monday.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah offered to allow them entry into the capital as long as they restricted their protests to a designated spot. The farmers’ response: Thanks, But NO Thanks.

Critics say the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, which brings a new contract-farming regime, doesn’t adequately protect the farmer. Sections 19 states that “no civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceedings in respect of any dispute which a Sub-Divisional Authority or the Appellate Authority is empowered by or under this Act to decide”. This bar of jurisdiction will hurt the interests of farmers, they argue.

Still wanna say – Jai Jawan, Jai Kisaan?

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