The three farm bills – the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill (commonly referred to as the APMC Bypass Bill), and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill — recently passed by the parliament have raked up protests of farmers in different parts of the country especially Punjab and Haryana. Farmer groups and political parties are holding massive protests in different states against these new bills. They are saying that they will intensify their protests if the government does not roll back these anti-farmer bills.
But the Narendra Modi government is not ready to listen to the farmers and address their grievances. In their usual cunning style, the ruling BJP is terming the passage of these bills as historic and projecting them as great benefit for them. Brushing aside the objections and opposition raised by farmers, the government and ministers are hell bent upon spreading the narrative that these bills were passed for the benefit of farmers. In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words, “For decades, the Indian farmer was bound by various constraints and bullied by middlemen. The bills passed by Parliament liberate the farmers from such adversities. These bills will add impetus to the efforts to double income of farmers and ensure greater prosperity for them”.
The irony is that the government call the bills a great benefiting step for the farmers while the farmers are terming them a death warrant for them. How can the farmers agitate against the bills which brings benefits to the farmer? Here, the government just aimed to win in the narrative by calling the harmful bills as beneficial. The intention of the government is to mislead the people and undermine all the farmer protests. This is the typical way of dealing with the opposition by this fascist government on its policies. Earlier, in cases of revocation of article 370 and the passage of the CAA the government similarly wanted to win the narratives not address real grievances. They projected the revocation of article 370 as a step taken to bring development in the state and the CAA as the law which has nothing to do with the people of India. In both of these issues, the government tried to run diametric opposite narrative rather than dealing with the original issues. The government is now playing similar games with the farmers. They are trying to peddle a diametric opposite narrative about those bill while the farmers is protesting against these agriculture reforms.
The fact of the matter is that these bills will bring no benefits for the farmers. They have been brought in to benefit the corporate players and big companies. These reforms in the agriculture-related policies will help the multinational companies and corporate players to establish their monopoly in the field of farming. The government is surrendering the farmer to the corporates who will drive them according to the wishes and whims.
According to the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act passed in 1964, it was compulsory for farmers to sell their produce at government-regulated markets, or mandis, where middlemen helped growers sell harvests to either the state-run company or private players. But now new bills will bypass the APMC and the farmers were allowed to sell their produces in other markets where there will be no rules and regulations. There will be no system of grievances redressal. There will not be regulation of prices. The system of Minimum Support Price will end. There will also end of the ban on the stock of the produces. Earlier, stocking of produces was criminal offence. At Mandis, farmers also pay taxes to the state government for selling their produces. The new bills ended this tax system which will also cost the state governments.
In a way, the farmers will completely be at the mercy of the private players. They will pay to the farmers as they want for their produces. All the checks and balances which were put to control the corporate players in order to stop them from exploiting the poor farmers will come to an end after these bills are enacted.
There will not be complete end of the mandis which are run according to the government regulations. But since, the new bills allowed the farmers to sell their produces outside the mandis, the market of mandis will wither away. The private markets will get strengthened. In the private market, the corporate players will have free hand to deal with the farmers as they will want. Since there will be no minimum support price, the corporate players will buy the produce of the farmer as they want which will inflict farmer losses in their farming. The poor and illiterate farmers will have no idea how to deal with such corporates. They can easily be exploited by the big players.
These are corporate-friendly policies but the government is trying to project them as farmer-friendly. How can the poor and illiterate farmers benefit from an unregulated market? The farmers are already facing many issues in their profession. Although half of India’s population are involved in farming but millions of people are leaving the cultivation due to the lack of benefits in the profession. The farmers are already not getting the appropriate prices of their produce. Many of them commit suicide when they failed to get any benefit after putting in so much hard-works in it. Sometime they face loss due to weather and sometime they face loss due to not getting appropriate price of their produce. The new bills will create further hurdles in getting appropriate price of their produce. This will increase the misery and troubles of the farmers.