What are the negative impacts of farm laws on landless labourers and small tenant farmers?

Syllabus: GS-2- Development issues

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Context: Although the issue of MSP system has been brought into the limelight by protest of farmers, but very little attention has been paid to the impacts of farm bills on the landless and agricultural laborers.

Present data of landless laborers and tenant farmers

About 60 per cent of India’s population is engaged in agriculture and allied activities, of which Nearly 263 million are directly and rest are indirectly dependent on agriculture.

According to Census 2011;

  • There are 494.9 million (49.49 crore) landless individuals in villages, who are directly or indirectly dependent on cultivation for their livelihoods.
  • Around 1.2 crore or nearly 14 per cent of the farming community are tenant farmers or sharecroppers, who work in fields owned by others.

What are the provisions of farm laws in question?

Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services, 2020 will enable

  • Agri-business firms, retail supermarket chains to enter into prior agreements with small farmers for production, pricing, and purchase of agricultural products.
  • Leasing of land from small farmers (possessing below 1.0 ha of land) and pooling of plots to turn them into large farms and cultivate them with modern machinery and technology.

The rationale for the above provision was provided by NITI Aayog that since small farms are non-profitable it is necessary to opt for corporate farming.

How Farm laws will affect landless labourers and tenant farmers?

However, these provisions may lead to large-scale landlessness, unemployment, and further impoverishment of rural India.

  • Landless labor ideally should find 170 days of employment per year in two crop cultivated areas. But with the entry of corporate and their modern technology and the use of heavy machinery, they are certain to lose employment with no option for rehabilitation.
  • As the corporate buyers will dominate the APMC mandis, Small tenant farmers will be able to get the price 30 per cent lower than the MSP outside mandis. With no bargaining power and transportation facilities for their produce, they will be forced to sell their produce at a lower price.
  • The situation of most of the landless laborers and small farmers is so bad that for their own consumption, the majority of them are dependent upon subsidized grain provided through the PDS. Lesser procurement by the government through FCI will soon result in denial of ration to many of them under the Food Security act.

Thus, not only farmers but all sections of society — farmers, agricultural labourers, small shopkeepers must raise their concerns against the farm bills.

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