In India, agricultural markets are controlled and managed by the state Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) laws. The beneficiaries such as traders and commission agents buy the farm produce directly from the farmers. The farmers are forced to sell their produce at the minimum support price (MSP) to the beneficiaries. This imbalance has resulted in the exploitation of both farmers and consumers. You might have heard about the sudden increase in the food prices in India. This is largely when traders become hoarders and start to control the retail prices. In 2017-18, the central government proposed to change this and allowed states to adopt free or direct trade between the retailers and the farmers under a contract or agreement. Only a few states namely Karnataka, West Bengal, and Maharashtra adopted it and others continued to enjoy exploiting farmers through minimum support price (MSP) in Kisan Mandis. The recent agricultural reform bill 2020 or farm bill 2020 is focused on removing this discrepancy allowing farmers to do free trade with an individual or corporation.
You might wonder as to why then the Indian farmers mostly from Punjab and Haryana are protesting against this bill. Out of the 23 crops that comes under MSP, only two (wheat and rice) are promoted in the states of Punjab and Haryana for the harvest by the traders and commission agents. This has resulted in the surplus of paddy crops and decrease in the other crops such as pulses. This was also highlighted in one of the reports by the Niti Ayog in 2016. The report published by the Niti Ayog in 2016 identified that in most states, farmers were unaware of the laws that were available to protect them and distress selling was promoted way too much. The farm bill 2020 that was passed in both houses on 20th September 2020, lays down precisely the points that will benefit the farmers. With this, the states have to adopt and implement the new provisions and eventually benefit both farmers and consumers.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
Farmers to sell their harvest outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Kisan Mandis and that too without paying any State taxes or fees.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020
Facilitates contract farming and direct marketing.
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020
Deregulates the production, storage, movement and sale of major foodstuffs such as cereals, pulses, edible oils and onion, except in the case of extraordinary situations.
If you follow our electronic news media, you may think that all these protests and agitations might be due to some sort of misunderstanding. To me it seems that the communication gap is huge. The central government never clarified that they will not remove the APMC laws or MSP. The current bill will only add extra benefits for the farmers and consumers. The farmers will be free to sell their produce to anyone. And yes, this is problematic to the earlier beneficiaries such as traders and commission agents especially in Punjab and Harynana. If this bill is fully understood by the farmers, there will be no future to those beneficiaries. The very reason why the state of confusion is maintained in the news media and will be maintained for a longer time. It is indeed unfortunate that even if the government tries to benefit farmers directly, the confused farmer is always misguided by the traders and agents.
To add to the confusion, our bollywood nincompoops have jumped to get the promotional mileage for their upcoming movies. Our bollywood is indeed stupid and so I’m not surprised. But I’m still confused as to why Mr. Trudeau needs to be concerned about the farmers bill or reforms in India. Is it something to do with the upcoming 44th Canadian federal elections in 2023? A recent survey conducted in Canada concluded that the popularity of Mr. Trudeau has declined over the years due to the scandals in his cabinet. Though the COVID-19 situation has helped Trudeau to gain back some of the lost popularity, the large part still relies on the immigrants settled in Canada.
In India, the opposition party is desperate to gain some popularity even if it is backed by flawed logic, confusion, or misunderstanding. If you look at the intensity or the absurdity of these ongoing protests, you’d understand that the events in the year 2020 isn’t easy for anyone to comprehend.