Why Are Farmers Protesting?

As India’s farming sector is vast, providing livelihood to nearly 70 percent of the country’s population and which accounts for around 15 percent of the $2.7-trillion economy, there is a need to bring reforms in the existing farm laws so as to create better infrastructure for increasing the production and farmer’s income at the same time.

But for the past few decades, farmer’s incomes have remained moribund and the sector is in sore need of speculation and modernization. The three farm laws passed by the central government have been a subject of controversy since the day they were passed as an ordinance in June 2020. From major political drama with alliances breaking to celebrities taking a stand against the government, the farmer’s protests have seen it all.

Constitutionality of the Three Farm Laws

The hustle starts over the very constitutionality of these laws, as various critics alleged that ‘Agriculture’ comes under the State list and as a result of which the central government has no right to dictate it’s working.

These allegations are based on half-baked information because even though, ‘Agriculture’ positions itself as entry 14 under the state list, that does not curtail the validity of any jurisdiction passed by the central government when it’s done in the face of national interest under Article 248 of the Indian constitution. Hence, it can be said that it is well within the powers of the central government to do what it has done.

The restlessness with which the bill was first passed as an ordinance in June amid the Corona Virus has definitely raised a few eyebrows. Ugly faults were traced in the process by which the laws were passed. Also, the muting of mics, the utter chaos in the voting process are fair enough reasons for people to apprehend the changes. But can this apprehension be backed by the Supreme Court? Article 122 of the Indian constitution limits the power of the Supreme Court, preventing it from intruding into the proceedings of the parliament on the basis of irregularity. Therefore, the laws can’t be challenged on the basis of faulty proceedings in the Supreme Court.

The prior state of affairs
Agriculture produce and marketing committees (APMC’s) –

Prior to these new farm laws, Indian agriculture was majorly regulated by various state agriculture laws. A few states had their own APMC laws to govern agriculture.

The Agriculture produce and marketing committees are basically geographically allocated markets by various state governments. This system was established with the following objectives:

1.   Transparency – through government regulation.

2.   Better price discovery through auctions.

3.    Establishing a formal supply chain.

4.   Reducing inconsistency in agriculture markets.

5.   Ensure MSP.

But it’s also true that the APMCs have their own disadvantages and inefficiencies. The act has failed a lot of its promises due to corruption and in fact, it has monopolized the agriculture markets to a large extent by establishing the supremacy of the licensed agents. The act also restricts a farmer’s choice of platform to sell their produce thus, leaving farmers with much less than what they actually deserve. Further, the state is assuring them on paper that only 6% of the total agriculture produce is to be sold in these notified mandis. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The middlemen that were incorporated under the APMC system were not entirely useless but were essential due to the lagging infrastructure of the nation. So it is to no denial that the APMC laws were proving highly incompetent but could they have been legitimized through reforms it would have been more beneficial for the farmers of the country.

Minimum Support Price (MSP) 

Minimum Support Price is announced for 23 commodities by the GOI at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendation of CACP. The MSP provides some sense of security to the farmers so that even when no one else buys it, the government will buy the stock at this minimum guaranteed price.

But MSP has its own shortcomings as it is provided nationally and all farmers do not get the same benefits because the cost varies from state to state. The policy is not optimal unless the bleak infrastructure is developed, the lack of storage facility and already overflowing stocks render this policy as a burden on the economy at times with a loss of Rs. 1000 Cr. annually on an average.

Contentions around the law

The new farm laws have resulted in the nation’s biggest protest of all times. So we need to understand what exactly the disagreements are about

  • Various state governments are opposing these laws because it aims at dismantling the APMC which are a source of revenue for them. For eg. Punjab annually earns Rs. 350 Cr. from the APMC taxes.
  • The new laws have permitted hoarding with exceptions only in the case of war and disaster.
  • Farmers allege that the Government is trying to serve its own purpose of the corporatization of agriculture through contract farming. As farmers fear that they will be exploited by big industrialists.
  • The act instructs farmers to approach the district magistrate in case of any disputes, which the farmers are not satisfied with it as they believe that it is a far bureaucratic channel and will not help them.
  • The farmers are most adamant about the MSP as they apprehend that the government will squash it as per the recommendation of the Santa committee.

Many people favor the acts of the government in view that reforms were necessary and the MSP is not under the ambit of these three laws. The protests have also been argued as politically driven. The laws have their own pros and cons but it is to no denial that the agricultural income since independence has grown only over 21 times as compared to 180 times for a government employee. Farmers need to be heard and reconciled with in order for any policy to work in their favor.

REFERENCES

1.  Farmer’s produce trade and commerce (promotion and facilitation) act

2. The farmer’s(empowerment and protection) agreement on price assurance and farm services act

3.  Essential commodities (amendment) act

4.  The model APMC act, 2003

5.  The model APMC act, 2017

 https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/minimum-support-price-msp-farmers-explained-6706253/

       https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_produce_market_committee

This article is authored by Aditi Rathore, Student at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Legally Flawless or its members.

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