Farmers are the native providers of any nation where they help to facilitate the supply of food. Their troubles are no secret. From poverty to exploitation and waste of produce, they have witnessed it all. To curb the situation from becoming direr, the government and several bodies have devised new initiatives. Farm management systems propagate seamless storage of crucial data that is imperative to farmers. By using this technology, there is a grave assurance of manoeuvering the routine data more methodically and efficiently. Another such strategy was the newly forged farmer’s bill. Its rationale is to combat the struggles confronted by farmers and boost the overall economy.
Incorporating these improved techniques can help to ease the journey of farmers. The farm management system proposes to cater to the elementary needs of farmers. They can enormously benefit from the transparency that is coupled with it. However, the farmer community is ambivalent of the recent bills passed by the government. Even though their aim is righteous, the farmers deduce that the bill will govern their autonomy.
BRIEFLY UNDERSTANDING THE BILL
They passed two bills in 2020 to exhilarate the state of farmers. They addressed these at the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The two most famously criticised bills are:
1) The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill: Under this bill, the farmers can practice their liberty by trading their production outside the Agricultural Produce Market Committee mandis. The government regulates these. The consideration was to encourage more preferences for farmers to select from. By generating better alternatives possible to them, the prospect was to defeat the obsolete institution of mandis.
2) The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020: The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 enables the farmers to sell their produce interstate or intrastate. They condemn state governments to levy any market fee or additional taxes on this trade.
WHY ARE THE FARMERS AGITATED?
The farmers are accustomed to the APMC system of selling for many years now. This ensures security for their produce and stimulates a steady selling experience. However, the engagement of big companies has provoked a stir of dread among farmers. They conjecture that there may be exploitation at play, caused by big companies. These companies are better resourced and can stunt the functioning of farmers. By trading with buyers directly, the demand and the value offered can fluctuate. A farmer from Madhya Pradesh voiced his grievance about how corporations offer different prices for the same crops and same quantity.
India is brimming with small-scale farmers. By inspiring them to take part with large-scale buyers directly is a cause of substantial distress. The farmers feel crippled and futile. The big companies do not heed their voice, essentially. The presence of mandis has always ensured timely payments. This may not be the case with large multinationals. The new and emerging policies that fortify the sale of the produce across state or city borders are again facing criticism. The costs of storage and travel will shave off the profit margin.
Contract farming has also incited vertiginous panic. The farmers will receive a guaranteed price by the government called MSP. They suspect that there will be a withdrawal of the MSP considering recent transformations. However, the Prime Minister has addressed this issue and made a public statement reaffirming that MSP is yet intact. But the farmers still are ambivalent. Their apprehension is that it will be harder for the government to oversee transactions conducted outside the mandis.
The MSP’s assured a specified price on the products sold by peasants. But, by sanctioning private buyers, they may force the farmers to let up their produce at lower prices. There is a paucity of regulations to safeguard the best interests of farmers. We can witness the rebellion more in Punjab and Haryana, where APMC mandis are more operational.
Albeit considering a pragmatic and long-term approach, the bills are a travesty to the farmers. They subject it to abject criticism. The rationale was to liberalise the farmers. Presenting a wider cluster of possibilities was an effort to assuage their concerns. Agricultural economist Dr. Ashok Gulati equated the bill to “delicensing of the agricultural sector” and declared that it would dispense an additional option to farmers for selling their produce. But the preconceived notions attached to the bill have led to its untenable failure. The experiences gained from Bihar that ended the mandi system over a decade ago have had a notable influence. The state witnessed possession of sovereignty by traders who manipulated the farmers and exercised their influence. Being subject to price exploitation may further result in poverty and suicide rates.