IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 21st Sep 2020
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EDITORIAL HUNT #148 :“Issues with Farmer’s Bill 2020 | UPSC“
Issues with Farmer’s Bill 2020 | UPSC
Himanshu is Associate Professor, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
It’s a no green signal from the farm world
There is good reason why opposition to the agriculture Bills may be a reflection of the genuine concerns of farmers
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3:Agriculture
The Farmers Bill 2020 recently passed from both the houses lacks debate and discussion. Discuss -(GS 3)
- Farmers Concerns
- Poor Communication
- BILLS : These are The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
- OVERVIEW : The Bills aim to do away with government interference in agricultural trade by creating trading areas free of middlemen and government taxes.
- CONTENTIONS : This is outside the structure of Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) along with removing restrictions of private stockholding of agricultural produce.
- IN THE NAME REFORM : Attempts to reform the APMC are not new and have been part of the agenda of successive ruling classes for the last two decades.
- POLITICAL INTERFERENCE : Most farmer organisations also agree that there is excessive political interference and there is need for reform as far as functioning of mandis are concerned.
- WELCOME NOTE : Several reforms at the level of the central government as well as at the State level have been introduced and welcomed by farmers.
- INCEPTION : The particular case, the issue is not about the Bills; it is also about the process of their introduction.
- CONSULTATION : Consultation with State governments even though the subject of trade and agriculture are part of subjects on the State list.
- MISTRUST FACTOR : The attempt to pass the Bills without proper consultation adds to the mistrust among various stakeholders including State governments.
ISSUES RAISED BY FARMER ORGANISATIONS
- RECENT TRENDS : The recent trends in agricultural prices and incomes have only confirmed these fears.
- MARKETISATION : While farmer organisations see these Bills as part of the larger agenda of corporatisation of agriculture .
- PROCUREMENT SUPPORT : Immediate concern has been the attempt to weaken the APMC mandis and eventual withdrawal of the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) guaranteed by the government.
- CRONY CAPITALISM : There may not be direct evidence of crony capitalism, but the entry of biggest corporate groups in food and agricultural retail are ringing bells to farmers.
REFLECTS POOR UNDERSTANDING
- CLARITY : The idea of allowing greater participation of traders and farmers outside the APMC has already been in place in different form.
- PRICE DISCOVERY : APMCs do play an important role of price discovery essential for agricultural trade and production choices.
- POOR UNDERSTANDING : The vilification of APMCs and the middlemen who facilitate trade in these mandis is a poor reflection of the understanding of functioning of agricultural markets.
- ROLE OF MIDDLEMEN : The middlemen are a part of the larger ecosystem of agricultural trade, with deep links between farmers and traders.
- MISAPPREHENSIONS : Most farmers are familiar with the functioning of mandis and see it as an essential part of agricultural trade despite shortcomings.
- LACK OF REGULATION : The preference for corporate interests at the cost of farmers’ interests and a lack of regulation in these non-APMC mandis are cause for concern.
THE BIHAR EXAMPLE
- CONCERNS : The dominant concern in this regard has been expressed by farmers in Punjab and Haryana.
- LARGE SCALE PROCUREMENT : Farmers in these States have genuine concern about the continuance of the MSP-based public procurement.
- ABOLISHMENT OF APMC : These fears gain strength with the experience of States such as Bihar which abolished APMCs in 2006.
- SURVIVAL KIT : Despite the shortcomings and regional variations, farmers still see the APMC mandis as essential to ensuring the survival of MSP regime.
- PRICE CRASH : Even cash crops such as cotton have seen a collapse in prices in the absence of government intervention.
- REMUNERATIVE PRICES : With rising input costs, farmers do not see the market providing them remunerative prices.
- AD HOC INTERVENTIONS : Temporary interventions by government such as raising import duties on masur and a ban on onion exports also raise suspicion about the intent to leave the price discovery mechanism on the market.
The protests by farmers are essentially a reflection of the mistrust between farmers and the stated objective of these reforms.