History of Agricultural Legislations in India
Since the time of the Mughal rule, agriculture in India has been considered of prime importance. Agriculture has helped develop India in several ways such as flourishing trade, increasing the GDP of our country by the exports of various agricultural commodities. Production, processing, and marketing are considered the three pillars of agriculture. For Marketing, APMC (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee), in most parts of India regulates the agricultural produce. Under the jurisdiction of the market committee, no person or agency is allowed freely to carry on wholesale marketing activities. APMC, a marketing board established by the Government of India, for allowing farmers to get reasonable prices for the crops they sell.
APMC has market yard traders and other marketing agents which provide godowns and shops for the purchase of agriculture produce from farmers. Farmers can sell their produce to agents or traders under the supervision of APMC. The states which work under the APMC supervision are Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh.
Ending APMC Legislation in India
Three farm bills- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, The Farmers’ Produce Trade & Commerce Bill (APMC bypass bill) & the Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement on price assurance & Farm Services Bill were cleared by the Parliament amid the protests by the opposition. These bills are aimed at transforming agriculture in the country and raising farmers’ income. Also, they aim to do away with the Government interferences in the agricultural trade by creating trading areas free of middlemen and government taxes outside the structure of APMC along with removing restrictions on private players on agricultural produce.
The shortcoming of the APMC Bypass Bill
Lack of regulation, regulatory oversight, and reporting and making them non-transparent.
The way this bill has been launched, without any consultation, adds an element of mistrust between Farmers and the Government.
An immediate concern is an attempt to weaken APMC Mandis & withdrawal of MSP guaranteed by the government. Although ‘Narendra Modi’ has clarified that procurement of MSP by the State but when big corporate sectors will come into play, there are chances that APMC will wither away over time.
Gurmukh Singh, 47, who is a small farmer with around 4 acres of land in Lachkani village, says that while the government has said that farmers can now trade anywhere, he asks how that will be possible as they cannot afford hefty costs.
Some farmers are concerned and some have experiences with trading with private corporations, saying that they will receive the prices of their crop produce at MSP.
These bills have banned the export of onion. So, the farmers are not getting hints that the bills are farmer’s centric. Hence, there is a high number of protests against these bills by the farmers in the States of Haryana and Punjab.
Playing Politics over the Bill
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, “We are here to serve our farmers. We will do everything possible to support them and ensure a better life for their coming generations”. He added that the government was bringing in these provisions as middlemen have been bullying farmers for years.
Union Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has also said that APMC will continue & Farmers will be able to sell their produce even outside Mandis as earlier farmers were forced to do so.
But the party leaders are not themselves happy. Hasmirat Kaur Badal, the union cabinet minister of Akali Dal has resigned saying that these bills were against the farmers. Also, the opposition parties Congress and AAP are against the bill. The leader of the Congress party of Punjab Captain Amrinder Singh has said that the Akali’s claims of standing with farmers are hollow. He has said that she should have opposed the bill in the union cabinet itself, not accepting the bill after being released is a mere strategy of earning farmer’s vote and getting power in the center.
Capt. Amrinder Singh said he will take the matter to the Supreme Court and will fight for the farmer’s rights. He also added that he will deal with the matter legally and does not want the people of Punjab to deal with the matter with arms.
The way this bill has been passed without proper consultations put the government at a question. As this bill is passed for the betterment of the farmers, their concerns and fears have to be addressed carefully. The bills and their amendments must be passed after proper discussions with the people concerned with it. The need of the hour is to strengthen the system of PDS and FCI so that one can be sure that there is no maldistribution of the food grains. Proper measures are required to be taken while combining agriculture with the corporate world. The government should launch some strict laws and schemes to ensure that the trade of grains with the farmers and corporate sectors is done in such a way that farmers' rights are not exploited. Now, this issue is not only restricted to the farmers anymore, it has become a much serious issue.
By: Nandini Gupta