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Explained: Why are Farmers protesting in our Country?

With India observing Bharat Bandh in support of Farmers’ angst today, The Better Andhra brings you the full story on why our country’s farmers are angry with the new farm bills passed by the Modi government.
 
Anger against the three central farm legislations has been simmering since September. For the last one week, thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have been marching toward the national capital and are nearing the borders. Today, farmers from across India will be joining them, expressing their solidarity for the cause.
 
After failing to garner support from their respective state governments, the farmers have decided to mount pressure on the Union government, due to which they are coming to Delhi.
 
While BJP governments in UP and Haryana have failed to convince farmers, governments of Rajasthan and Punjab have extended full support to their agitation. Farmers want the Union government to either withdraw the three legislations or guarantee them the minimum support price (MSP) for their crops by introducing a new law.
 
Why are farmers angry?
 
Farmers do not accept the three new legislations: 
  1. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation); 
  2. 2) The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance; and 
  3. 3) Farm Services and The Essential Commodities (Amendment).
 
They believe the laws will open agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers, remove the barriers to inter-state trade, and provide a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce.
 
Since the state governments will not be able to collect market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.
 
Farmers believe that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP. Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation.
 
Farmers are demanding the government guarantee MSP in writing, or else the free hand given to private corporate houses will lead to their exploitation.
 
The arhtiyas (commission agents) and farmers enjoy a friendship and bonding that goes back decades. On an average, at least 50-100 farmers are attached with each arhtiya, who takes care of farmers’ financial loans and ensures timely procurement and adequate prices for their crop. 
 
Farmers believe the new laws will end their relationship with these agents and corporates will not be as sympathetic towards them in times of need.
 
What do these bills intend to do?
 
While the farmers are protesting the three farm acts and call it anti-farmer, the government has always maintained that the reform will help make it smoother for the farmers to sell their produce. The government wants to implement these laws to bring in corporate investment in the form of contracts. 
 
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 assures the farmer of providing a legal framework for them to enter into pre-arranged contracts with buyers including the pricing. This, the government says, will help the farmers strike a better deal.
 
The farmers are afraid that the corporates will twist and turn words to bind them in an unfavourable contract just like moneylenders made bonded labourers out of workers. They feel it would be very hard for a farmer to always understand the ramifications of the contract that he is signing.
 
The government said that the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 lets the farmer sell anywhere he wants to, even online. It also stops the state government from imposing any tax or fee for these transactions. Sounds great, right?
 
But the farmers are scared that this might also lead to corporatisation of the entire agricultural market and the prices can be driven up or down by the corporates. 
 
States like Punjab and Harayana, who are supporting the protest also have a lot at stake if the state governments are not allowed to levy taxes and fees. Punjab will lose around Rs 3,500 crore and Haryana Rs 1,600 crore every year.
 
Will this affect you? Your food will get very expensive 
 
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 removes food grains, potato, onions and other perishable food from the list of essential items unless there is a war, famine or extraordinary situation. It also allows one to stock up as much as you want unless the price of perishable goods doubles or there is a 50 per cent increase in the price of non-perishable goods. 
 
What does this mean? Supermarkets and corporate firms in the business can stock up, this will reduce the supply in the market while the demand stays the same. This will drive the price up — more demand causes people to drive the prices higher as they want the goods and they are willing to pay more if they are able to get it. 
 
The corporates will then release their stock when the prices are higher. Make a profit and essentially drive down the price. So yes, it will affect you as your food might get more expensive and as a chain reaction everything will become expensive.
 
But the crux of the matter is, that the proposition and intended outcome are not all bad, but the stakeholders are worried that the implementation of the laws will not be proper and thus will lead to misuse more than the use of the laws which will essentially exploit the farmers. 
 
The farmers currently sell at a Minimum Selling Price or MSP which, the activists and farmers think will not be met even though its a measly amount, if these reforms are made.

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