Skip to main content

Glaring loopholes in farm bills: Suppression, rhetoric 'failing' to pacify protestors

By Ananta Chhajer*

The Modi government is facing one of the strongest oppositions since it came to power. And it is not from its biggest rival, Congress. Rather it is from the people that the Modi government promised to make the life easy for -- the farmers of India.
The seeds of this massive protest were laid on September 27, when the President gave assent to the three contentious agriculture bills that were earlier passed by the parliament. The three bills include the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. The three bills share a common theme making it easy for private players to deal directly with farmers and bypassing the ‘mandi’ system existing at present.
The government believes that the three bills would make it easy for farmers to sell their products outside ‘mandis’ making the market competitive and thus yielding better price for the farmers’ produce. Also, the bills are claimed to improve farmers' accessibility to modern technology and reduce transportation cost resulting in multifold benefits to the farmer.
However, the farmers are apprehensive of the motive behind the bills. The contention is that the bills significantly jeopardize the position of small and marginal farmers leaving them open to the vagaries of the market driven prices. A major setback could be the farmers not getting the minimum support price with the concentration of power in the hands of few big private players. The competitive price offered by private players can drive the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis out of business putting the farmers at the mercy of the private players and contract farming.
The discrepancy in the Indian farming sector is widely known. According to agriculture census 2015-16, small and marginal farmers account for 86.2% of all farmers is India but they own just 47.3% of the crop area. This leaves a considerable proportion of Indian farmers with little negotiation power in front of a large buyer if left in the open market which may further widen the inequalities in the sector.
The bills completely remove any regulatory oversight which might be similar to the worrisome experience of dairy deregulation in 1991 leading to a number of firms coming with adulterate milk. Even the APMC deregulation in Bihar in 2006 failed to bring significant changes with farmers in the state who were rather further hamstrung by lack of right information about the prices.
What has been even more worrisome is the response of the government towards the protest. The attempts to stifle the protest have made the situation worse with agitation gaining widespread support and intensifying the protests to the extent that farmers are looking for nothing less than complete repeal of the law.    
The government can take cue from China’s successful market liberalization in 1978, when it set up rural cooperatives and transferred land rights to farmers
“Phase 1 response of the government was that of suppression. Seeing that it didn’t work out, phase 2 is about superficial negotiation. We have to see what phase 3 holds”, says Kirankumar Vissa, a farmer rights activist.
It is pretty clear that there are glaring loopholes in the bill that government needs to fix before it can come to the negotiation table. There is mention of price information in the bills, but only as something government may do. In case the farmers lose access to the indicative prices of the mandis, government needs to ensure the farmers of alternate mechanism. Crop diversification hailed as one of the ways for improving the farmer’s condition would further be discouraged under the contract farming scheme.
In the past contract farming has led to issues like buyers rejecting the crop citing quality concerns and not paying the full amount. In the absence of regulatory framework, the government needs to chart out a proper mechanism for speedy resolution of the cases related to contract farming.
More than a mere assurance is needed from the government’s side. To start with, the government has to engage in conversations with the stakeholders and give assurance that the bills will be put on hold till the issues are resolved. More transparency on the bills and other kinds of support are needed to win the trust of the farmers. Investments in infrastructure like cold storage needs to be ensured to avoid any repercussion of the dwindling mandi system. Capital inflows into the value chain and encouraging crop diversification into high value crops should be adopted.
The government can take cues from China’s successful market liberalization in 1978 by taking small steps such as bringing in price and market reforms, setting up rural cooperatives and transferring land rights to farmers. The proliferation of agri-tech startups can make the life a bit easier and government should encourage the same for the benefit of the farmers.
It is very clear that suppression and rhetoric has not worked in pacifying the protestors. The way ahead is to win the trust of the farmers and do that with meaningful reforms. The farmers are longing to return to their fields from the street. Now, it all depends on the government’s next response how fast and peacefully that happens.
---
*Second year student, MBA, Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Dalit scholar's comment on Lord Shiva 'harming' Muslims, 'damaging' secular cause

Shahid Siddiqui, Bobby Naqvi By Our Representative   Bobby Naqvi, who is with the "Gulf News", and is a well-known name among Muslim intellectuals, strongly objecting to the social media post of Prof Ratan Lal, has said that "a big reason for majoritarian hatred against Muslims is irresponsible remarks by people like Prof Ratan Lal of Delhi University." In a Facebook comment , which has attracted paise, among others, from journaliat-politician Shahid Siddiqui, Naqvi said, "Their commentary on Hinduism and icons of Hinduism (while angering religious and liberal Hindus alike) also triggers a massive backlash against Muslims. When the likes of Prof Lal criticize Hinduism on social media, Hindus bring Islam and Islamic practices and ask 'what about this' or 'what about that'." Naqvi insists, "Muslims (without their fault) and Islam get caught in this crossfire between the so called Hindu liberal class and the religious Hindus. And the ult

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

Why there's strong likelihood India may resurrect its presence in Afghan capital

By Anand K Sahay* Since India evacuated its mission in Afghanistan once the Taliban re-took Kabul last August practically under American aegis, following what came to be called the Taliban’s Doha “negotiations” with the US, New Delhi is evidently doing a re-think. It is considered likely that an Indian representation will soon be restored in Kabul, even if this will be small and not at the level of ambassador. This is reflective of realistic thinking. Of course, there can be no question at present of according recognition to the Taliban regime. That is likely to happen when a broad consensus amongst the leading powers emerges. Currently the Taliban government is not helping its own cause of gaining world recognition- which will help it access overseas funds at a time when the country is in dire straits- by imposing severe restrictions on women and girls in serious violation of human rights. More basic is the issue that the Taliban regime is not considered r