It seems that pushing through bills in haste, without discussion has become a frequent occurrence in the parliamentary sessions nowadays. The latest victims of this unjust and undemocratic procedure are the farmers of the country. On 17th September, yet another set of controversial bills were passed in the Lok Sabha.
The 3 bills introduced by Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar are – Farmer’s Produce trade and Commerce (promotion and facilitation Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of price Assurance and farm services Bill, 2020 and the essential commodities amendment bill, 2020.
While the farmers are continuously protesting against the bill, the said bill has now been passed in the upper house of the parliament by voice vote, except the third bill, as the session was adjourned for the day. All through the session of the Rajya Sabha, the opposition parties like the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Trinamool Congress, DMK, BSP, kept opposing the bill by calling it an ‘anti-farmer’ bill and demanding for the bill to be sent to the select committee of Rajya Sabha for a thorough review.
It is important to note that it was not just the opposition who were against the bills. Some of the longtime allies of BJP like the Shromi Akali Dal and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, also were standing in opposition to the bills.
However, the protests against the bill are not limited to the parliament. A massive protest by farmers all across the country can be seen, especially by the farmers in states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The bill introduced by the agriculture minister states the following points regarding each bill –
- “The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 seeks to provide for the creation of an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers’ produce which facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-State and intra-State trade.”
- “The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 seeks to provide for a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
- “The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 seeks to remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. This will remove fears of private investors of excessive regulatory interference in their business operations. The freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute and supply will lead to harnessing of economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into agriculture sector.”
Big farm organisations and agricultural bodies have been incessantly objecting and protesting against the bill by saying that these bills will only benefit the big corporates while destroying farmer’s livelihood. They believe that these bills will lead to an eventual withdrawal of Minimum support prices and the exploitation by the corporate companies.
Many, on the possibility that it will legalize hoarding, have opposed the point in the bill that calls for the imposition of stack-limit on agricultural produce if there is a 100 per cent increase in retail price of horticultural produce and 50 per cent increase in retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items.
Despite the repeated claim by the Centre that the proposed bills will bring positive changes for farmers of the country, the farmers cannot help but fear that these bills will give an edge to the private companies, exporters and the wholesalers.