Context: The present farm laws alter the bargaining landscape in favour of the corporate players to the detriment of the farmers.
What is current issue with farm laws?
- The three recently enacted farm laws assented have led to a showdown between the peasantry and the Union government.
- No consultation undertaken by the central government at the time of promulgating the ordinances and then pushing the bills.
- Despite repeated demands of the oppositions to refer the farm bills to the standing/select committee for reconsideration and necessary consultation with all stakeholders.
- Present dispensation believes that its shock-and-awe methods are to be the main medium of governance.
- The Union government has bypassed the federal structure by legislating on subjects that exclusively fall within the domain of the state government under the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
What are the salient features of the bill?
- Reducing role of MSP: The farm laws open the field to an alternate set of markets/private yards, where the buyer will have no statutory obligation to pay the minimum support price (MSP).
- No fee: Markets/private yards will not be charged any market fee/levy. The agricultural sector will see the gradual shifting of trade from the APMC mandis to these private yards.
- Reduce APMC role: The shifting of trade to avoid payment of any levy/market fee by private players and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) will eventually witness the redundancy of the APMC mandis, leaving the famers at the mercy of the corporate sharks.
- Exclude the jurisdiction of the civil court: It will leave the farmers remediless and with no independent medium of dispute redressal mechanism. The farm laws empower the Sub-Divisional Authority (executive) to adjudicate on disputes between the farmers and traders.
- Increased bureaucracy: The increased bureaucratic control over the adjudication of disputes between the farmers and corporate players will open the floodgates for corruption and rent-seeking.
How the bills are anti-farmers?
- There are several pro-corporate and perceived anti-farmer provisions in the farm laws.
- The global experience across agricultural markets demonstrates that corporatisation of agriculture without a concomitant security net in the form of an assured payment guarantee to the farmers results in the exploitation of farmers at the hands of big business.
- The primary cause for concern is the systematic dismantling of the APMC mandis which have stood the test of time and have provided farmers the remuneration to keep themselves afloat.
What needs to be done?
- The legality of laws should be expeditiously decided by the Supreme Court to halt the central government’s repeated encroachment on states’ rights.
- There is need of robust system to annually re-calculate the MSP keeping in mind the rising input costs of diesel, fertilisers, etc to make farming a viable and lucrative vocation.
- A statutory regulator in the field of agriculture akin to regulators in other fields would fill the gap to address information access and market distortions.
The three legislative nails in the farmer’s aspirations might lead to a bitter harvest.