This article is written by Girija Rani Mullapudi from Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University (vizag ).
This article gives an outlook on new Farmer Bill 2020 amendments. This article aims to provide information on the enactment of the farmer bill by legislation, legislative amendments, farmer fears, demands, protests, the role of the Supreme Court, and the constitutionality of the reform laws, as well as the author’s personal opinion on the issue.
Agriculture is the primary source of income for approximately 58 percent of India’s population, including 70 percent of rural households, with 82 percent of these being small and marginal farmers. Under the 2015-16 Farm Census, about 5 hectares of land was purchased by about 86.2 percent of small and medium-sized farmers.
Mr. Ram Nath Kovid, India’s president, signed the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 on September 27, 2020. During the recently ended Monsoon season, the parliament passed these laws.
The factor to look about, indeed, are the farmers whose development is achieved by these acts on the streets. From September 2020, farmers’ groups such as the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) and the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) have been opposing the bills. They have lifted the hashtag “Kisan Bachao Mandi Bachao.” In this article, we will address the changes brought on by the new Acts, why farmers are protesting, and what the next steps are.
REFORMS IN THE FARMER BILL 2020
- The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill 2020
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Bill, 2020, has far-reaching consequences, especially for Punjab and Haryana. The declared goals of this Bill are to give farmers more options in exporting their agricultural products, increase remuneration, and encourage large-scale private investment into agro-businesses.
- Trade Outside the Boundaries of the Market
- Market Fees Need to Be Eliminated
- Trading In Electronic Form
- Disputes Resolved
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill 2020,
Essentially, the Bill aims to legalise contract farming, allowing farmers to sell their agricultural produce outside of the APMC within a national system that aims to protect and encourage farmers so that they can engage with agro-business companies, major retailers, and farm produce exporters without fear of being exploited.
- Agreement on Farming
- Agricultural Produce Conditions and Prices
- Disputes are Resolved
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020
The Act, under which the Central Government is allowed to control the supply of such foodstuffs only in exceptional circumstances, is included in section 3(1A) of Bill 2020 on basic commodity (Annex). Its aim is to protect and improve farmers’ income as well as consumers’ interests.
- Food Items Regulation
- Maximum Stock
WHAT IS THE FEAR OF FARMERS?
Farmers’ associations in Punjab and Haryana say the new laws passed at the Center will dismantle the MSP scheme. In the course of time big businesses dictate conditions and producers get less for their crops. Farmers worry they will not get a guaranteed price for their crops through virtual dislocation of the mandi scheme, and ‘arthiyas’ – commission agents who also loan them in will be out of business.
Since they fear the provisions of these Bills could be the forum the government (at the center) establishes to substitute or remove the supported scheme, otherwise robust in its countries, to buy their crops, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, or Haryana farmers are annoyed. They worry that, under the excuse of offering farmers more playground and better forums, their MSP guarantees that their safety net was launched after the Green Revolution of the 1960s.
In these places, the procurement infrastructure powered by state-government crops is very strong. The Food Corporation of India procurement at MSP promises farmers to concentrate on making more returns before any season of agricultural operation. 23 crops have MSPs, but the governments only acquire rice and wheat in the first place. Farmers dread the two new bills as they worry that both government procurement and the MSP will be killed by these agricultural reforms. We see most protesters from Punjab and Haryana since they are the major beneficiaries of this security network.
HOW MSP IMPACTS FARMING
When it purchases crops from the producers, MSP is the minimum price charged by the Nation. The State Agricultural Cost and Price Commission (CACP), after determining the cost of cultivation, announces it more than 22 commodities each year. The Indian Food Corporation (FCI), the major state-owned agency of grain procurement, buys paddy and wheat mostly only at certain rates. The FCI then offers these crops to the poor at heavily subsidised prices and is then paid for its losses by the government.
DEMANDS FROM FARMERS
The main requirement is the removal of the three regulations deregulating the export of their crops. Farmers’ associations also have the legal certainty, preferably by amending the rules, that the MSP scheme can proceed. They also urge that the energy proposal (amendment) Bill 2020 be withdrawn and that the subsidised electricity be stopped. Farmers also argue that they should not be subject to laws against stubble burning.
THE RESPONSE OF THE GOVERNMENT
The government has projected three farm laws as major agricultural reforms that abolish intermediaries and make it possible for farmers to sell anywhere in the world. The Agricultural Product Marketing Committee (APMC) was able to sell agricultural product for the first time until 2020. However, following the Law in 2020 on the Commercial and Commercial Produce of Farmers (Promotion and Facilitation), it enables farmers to sell outside of APMC in India. Several Ministers of the Union called on farmers not to misunderstand the amendments. The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar said that rejecting the demands for the inclusion of the Minimum Aid Price (MSP) as mandatory clause in Farm Bills, though government commitments to MSP “was never a legal aspect” earlier and “is not” today.
HOW ARE THE BILLS GOING TO HELP FARMERS?
The three farms’ laws provide the farmer with three fundamental freedoms.
- Battle the APMC monopoly cartel to market the product to everyone
- Bypass ACT and be free to shop inventory, which has been limited until now by ESCA stock restrictions.
- Contracts and the burden transferred to entrepreneurs in agreements reached on a crop before yields were made or fulfilled.
ROLE OF SUPREME COURT
On receiving many petitions for farmers protesting, the enforcement of farm law was suspended on 12 January 2021 by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has established a committee to examine complaints relating to agricultural legislation by 20 February 2021, the Committee requested proposals from the public on farm rules.
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE LAWS
The constitutionality of legislative legislation can be questioned only on two grounds, according to Union of India v H.S. Dhillon the matter is on the State List, or it violates fundamental rights. Is it compliant with the federalist scheme and the spirit of the Constitution to use legislative rights on agriculture? Is it possible for Parliament to pass legislation governing agricultural markets and lands? Should the Constitution have been changed before these legislations were enacted?
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, do not address the legislative arrangements by which Parliament has the power to legislate on the topics covered in their Statements of Objects and Reasons.
According to my opinion agriculture plays an important role in our country, and in order for that to happen, it is necessary to strengthen the agrarian sector, for which three acts have been passed by the Indian parliament, but they have received some criticism due to their loopholes, as those loopholes can only bring corporate India, but if we can reform them in such a way that those loopholes are eliminated, we will be able to achieve our goal.
- Vijay Jawandhiy & Ajay Dandekar, Three Farm Bills And India’s Rural Economy, THE WIRE (Oct 01, 2020), https://thewire.in/agriculture/farm-bills-indias-rural-issue.
- What are new farm laws and and why farmers are protesting, THE TIMES OF INDIA (Dec 08, 2020), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/what-are-new-farm-laws-and-and-why-farmers-are-protesting/articleshow/79609234.cms.
- Kriti pandey ,What is the Farm Bill and why are farmers protesting against it?, TIME NOWNEWS.COM, (Dec 04 2020), https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/what-is-the-farm-bill-and-why-are-farmers-protesting-against-it/689215.
- What is farm bill 2020: Pros & cons of three farm bills Centre introduced, THE TIMES OF INDIA (Sep 18 , 2020), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/what-is-farm-bill-2020-pros-cons-of-three-farm-bills-centre-introduced/articleshow/78180231.cms.
- Everything you need to know about the farm laws farmers are protesting against, THE ECONOMIC TIMES , ( Feb 08, 2021) https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/agriculture/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-agriculture-bills-passed-in-lok-sabha/articleshow/78183539.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst .
- Faizan Mustafa , An Expert Explains: The arguments for and against the three central farm laws, THE INDIAN EXPRESS (Sep 29, 2021), https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/an-expert-explains-farm-acts-and-federalism-6622769/.
- Priscilla Jebaraj , Who gains and who loses from the farm Bills?, THE HINDU (Sep 21, 2020), https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/the-hindu-explains-who-gains-and-who-loses-from-the-farm-bills/article32705820.ece.
- Supreme Court Stays Implementation of Farm Laws, Sets Up Committee for Talks“, The Wire ( Jan 12, 2021), https://thewire.in/law/supreme-court-farm-laws-implemntation-stay-committee-talks.
- Union of India v H.S.Dhillon , AIR 1972 SC 1061.
Curated by Shivanshika Samaddar of National Law University Delhi.