Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India's
population. As the central government is committed to double the income of
farmers by 2022, the government has enacted three acts namely the Farmer's
Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmer
(Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act,
2020, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. Whether this Act is in
favour or against the Indian Farmers, this will be perspicuous from the analysis
Constitutionality of the Acts
As per the Constitution of India, there are 97 subjects in the Union List on
which Parliament exercises its exclusive power to legislate which is mentioned
in Article 246 of Indian Constitution, the State List has 66 items on which
states alone can legislate; the Concurrent List has 47 subjects on which both
the Centre and states can legislate, but in case of a conflict, the law made by
Parliament prevails as per Article 254 of the constitution.
The fact that the
Central government can legislate on the subjects of State List under specific
circumstances cannot be denied. But as we all know that agriculture is the
subject of the State List, how can parliament make any law on that. Also as per
the decision in 1962 in State of West Bengal v. Union of India
, it was held
by the Supreme Court that Indian Constitution is not federal but then in 1994 as
per S R Bommai v. Union of India
 the federalism is a part of basic structure
of the constitution.
The subjects mentioned in the concurrent List can never be interpreted as if the
central government has powers to make the laws related to agriculture as
agriculture is the state subject.
It cannot be considered as a subject unless the government considers agriculture
as trade under Entry 41 of the Union List.
Before passing a bill, the interest groups are always taken into consideration
whether the upcoming law serves the purpose or not. But in this Monsoon Session,
the bill was passed so haphazardly that no interest groups were taken into
account and the bills were passed with the majority.
Ramifications of the new Acts
- As per the Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and
Facilitation) Act, 2020, the farmers will have the opportunity to sell and
purchase the farm produce outside the state. Under the new law, the mandis which
are operated under APMC will not be abrogated but soon they will cease to exist.
The small farmers will be forced to sell their produce to the corporates at
lower prices and due to abolition of mandi there will be no purchase of crops on
MSP (Minimum Support Price).
- According to the Farmer (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price
Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the farmers are allowed to enter into
contract farming with the corporates. The biggest fear that haunts the farmers
is that the corporates would draft the agreement in such a way that the farmers
will be left at the mercy of the corporates. Furthermore, the majority farmers
are not well versed with understanding the complex agreement clauses which will
keep the corporates in a dominating position. Another aspect is the corporates
will prefer to enter into an agreement with the big farmers because of the huge
profits at one go.
The small farmers will have to adjust with the lower prices
offered by the corporates.
- As per the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 commodities like
cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion and potatoes have been removed from the
list of essential commodities. According to experts it is a right step as it
will boost farmers' income, but it may also lead to increase in rural
poverty and have an adverse impact on the public distribution system. A
major loophole is this amendment to the Act will also allow big businessmen
to hoard essential commodities such as cereals, pulses, edible oil, onion
and potato leading to rise in prices.
Government's take on new Acts
MSP is in question because the quality of the farms produce cannot always be
superior. There are varieties of crops which are sold by farmers. As per them
the superior quality is kept for self consumption by the farmers and the
inferior quality is provided to sell in the market which results in loss to the
The government thinks that the new laws will help to get acquainted with the new
modern technology which will help them to increase their production. The Act
will also help the farmers to establish a direct contact between the farmers and
the corporates and the middlemen who used to exploit the farmers will have no
Although there will be loss in jobs of middlemen in states, the fear of
middlemen will also remain in the companies as farmers will not be in a position
to bargain their demands independently and hence need a middleman to put their
demands on table. The fear of exploitation for which the government put the new
laws will also continue to mushroom.
As per the central government there is no removal of APMCs and they will
continue to exist but after closely digging into the problem, we find that
gradually APMCs existence will cease to exist as only a few farmers will come
there who did not get suitable deals with the corporates due to which the state
government will not be in position to finance or maintain them which ultimately
leads to their end.
Criticism of the Laws
In the article titled 'Did You Think the New Laws Were Only About the Farmers?'
of The Wire, Section 13 of The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion
and Facilitation) Act, 2020, has been rightly criticized as it takes away the
powers of the farmers or any other person to approach the court as the section
itself provides for a wider interpretation.
Whatever is done by the government
in good faith may not necessarily be good for the people. Thus this section
provides for wide interpretation which needs to be narrowed down.
Although the nationwide protests against the new farm Acts are going on, no
conclusion has been drawn. The farmers want the new laws to be repealed and do
not want to negotiate which is clear from the recent dialogues. Although the
Honourable Prime Minister has assured MSP to the farmers while he was addressing
the nation recently. But the farmers are still not ready to accept those laws.
This is true that the laws cannot be imposed without consulting the interest
groups. There should have been a proper discussion on the bills before passing
them. If a proper mechanism would have followed, no such chaos would have
We can still hope that the central government would come up with a better
solution in order to solve the intricacies of the new laws.
- State of West Bengal v. Union of India 1964 SCR (1) 371
- S R Bommai v. Union of India 1994 SCC (3)