So much confusion has been created by the political parties on the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 whereas many of the Whatsapp Groups are filled with dirt of discussions without knowing the facts of the matter and so much has been written on the facebook walls for and against the Act.
On the introduction of the bill in the parliament, I wrote an article in my blog in the month of October, 2019 with some sarcastic colors about the plight of the farmers, who are destined to become scapegoats of the political parties. In the freezing streets of outskirts of Delhi, the said sarcasm seems to be getting its real colors, when the sons of soil are shivering, without knowing the fact that they are fighting against something which can give them lot of freedom and liberation. They are unaware about the real benefits the new Acts are offering , they follows the magic wand of their leaders. Many of us are airing our opinion either based on the colors of the political flag we hold or simply reacting on emotional grounds. So let us do some fact check based on what is on the papers.
Allowing farmers to sell outside their Mandis(Local markets)- Good or bad?
One of major highlights of the said two controversial Acts and One Amendment Act are that it allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of APMC markets. The Act also prohibits the State governments from levying any market fee, cess on the said products. Both these conditions are 100% positive on farmers. First one opens up a huge market place to the Farmers and second one is prohibiting the State Governments from levying any market fees , cess etc. It is quite natural for a losers to protest as there are justification at their end to do that.
The Act allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce outside: (i) the physical premises of market yards run by market committees formed under the state APMC Acts and (ii) other markets notified under the state APMC Acts. Such trade can be conducted in an ‘outside trade area’, i.e., any place of production, collection, and aggregation of farmers’ produce including: (i) farm gates, (ii) factory premises, (iii) warehouses, (iv) silos, and (v) cold storages. The Acts aim to increase the availability of buyers for farmers’ produce, by allowing them to trade freely without any license or stock limit, so that an increase in competition among them results in better prices for farmers. While the Act aim to liberalise trade and increase the number of buyers, de-regulation alone may not be sufficient to attract more buyers.
The Act permits the electronic trading of scheduled farmers’ produce (agricultural produce regulated under any state APMC Act) in the specified trade area. An electronic trading and transaction platform may be set up to facilitate the direct and online buying and selling of such produce through electronic devices and internet. The following entities may establish and operate such platforms: (i) companies, partnership firms, or registered societies, having permanent account number under the Income Tax Act, 1961 or any other document notified by the central government, and (ii) a farmer producer organisation or agricultural cooperative society. The Act prohibits State Governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’.
Here who are the real losers? Farmers or State Governments or Middle men? Are the farmers loosing anything due to this clause? Is it not the Middle Men who are losing grip over the Farmers, when the farmers are allowed to trade outside beyond APMC Markets? Is it not the State Governments that are losing the chance of levying the fees, cess etc on the products of farmers? If it is so, on whose interest the poor farmers are staging their protest? Are they protesting against their own good? Think about it from an independent stand point and form your own opinion.
Will the farmers get exploited by the corporate houses?
There are lot of concerns among many of the “well-wishers” of the farmers about the possible exploitation by the Corporate Giants, especially by “Ambanis” and “Adanis”. When we are expressing the apprehension about the possible exploitation, it is good to think about the present plight of the farmers.
Are they now even partially insulated from any kind of exploitations by Middle men? Are they able to sell their products freely to anyone at market price? When the middle men take the lion share of the profit of their produce , are the poor farmers are able to get atleast a part of it? When the middle men (it includes State Governments also), created artificial scarcity of the produce to escalate the price, are the farmers are getting benefitted in any manner?
As a matter of solution for such kind of “possible exploitation” the Farmers Act creates a framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce. It provides for a three-level dispute settlement mechanism: the conciliation board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Appellate Authority. The Acts envisaged for a proper regulatory mechanism for entering into agreements and for proper implementation for the same. A farming agreement must provide for a conciliation board as well as a conciliation process for settlement of disputes. The Board should have a fair and balanced representation of parties to the agreement. At first, all disputes must be referred to the board for resolution. If the dispute remains unresolved by the Board after thirty days, parties may approach the Sub-divisional Magistrate for resolution. Parties will have a right to appeal to an Appellate Authority (presided by collector or additional collector) against decisions of the Magistrate. Both the Magistrate and Appellate Authority will be required to dispose of a dispute within thirty days from the receipt of application. The Magistrate or the Appellate Authority may impose certain penalties on the party contravening the agreement. However, no action can be taken against the agricultural land of farmer for recovery of any dues.
As the Act clearly provides for the same on whose interest the poor farmers are staging their protest? Are they protesting against their own good? Think about it from an independent stand point and form your own opinion.
Will the Corporate houses create artificial scarcity under new Act?
There is so much hue and cry on this aspect alone. Agricultural produce are highly perishable goods and it will get destroyed unless kept under proper cold chains. Due to that reasons, the farmers are compelled to sell their products to Middle Men at throw away prices. The Essential Commodities Act were having clauses preventing the storage of goods which is actually against the interest of the farmers. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 allows the central government to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances (such as war and famine). Stock limits may be imposed on agricultural produce only if there is a steep price rise.
If there is proper contract between the Farmer and the investor to preserve the produce in proper cold chains to protect the value, then how it is bad on the Farmer? So, is that amendment is good for farmers or it is against the farmers? Think about it.
Will the Act eliminate the concept Minimum Support Price(MSP) and thereby deprive the interest of farmers?
What is MSP? MSP is nothing but a support price being offered to the Farmers by respective State Governments to enable them to sell the produce at a minimum price even the market is in adverse condition. There are 23 Crops which are classified as Agriculture Produce eligible for MSP. Out of that only Paddy and Wheat are having MSP , that too only declared by very few States in India. As per a recent survey only 34 % of the Farmers are aware about the MSP and rest are not. So 21 crops are not getting protection of MSP and nearly 66% of Farmers had even heard about the MSP.
Then what protection they are getting? At what price they are selling the products in the absence of an open and free trade market? Who all are buying their products ? Middle men or State?
The Act provides for a farming agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce. he price of farming produce should be mentioned in the agreement. For the prices which subjected to variation, a guaranteed price for the produce and a clear reference for any additional amount above the guaranteed price must be specified in the agreement. Further, the process of price determination must be mentioned in the agreement. The minimum period of an agreement will be one crop season, or one production cycle of livestock. The maximum period is five years, unless the production cycle is more than five years. Under the Act, the Farmer is able to fix a minimum price even prior to the production or rearing of the farm produce. The agreement is properly regulated and strictly implemented through an independent mechanism
As the fact is so, then what is the requirement of having an MSP? ? Is it not the State Governments are losing the chance of levying the fees, cess etc on the products of farmers? If it is so, on whose interest the poor farmers are staging their protest? Are they protesting against their own good? Think about it from an independent stand point and form your own opinion.
Think and Smile
The Trade and Commerce Act provides buyers the freedom to buy farmers’ produce outside the APMC markets without having any license or paying any fees to APMCs. The Contract Farming Act provides a framework for buyers and farmers to enter into a contract (before a crop season starts) which guarantees farmers a minimum price and buyers an assured supply. The third Act amends the Essential Commodities Act to provide that stock limits for agricultural produce can be imposed only when retail prices increase sharply and exempts value chain participants and exporters from any stock limit.
Friends, ability to smile and capability to think independently are the two main features which distinguish a Man from Monkey. Of course, you have the first. But just analyze whether you have the second quality among the two? Be a Man or continue as a Monkey , the Choice is yours....
BIJOY P PULIPRA