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Agitation on Farm Bills

2020 has been a year of lots of ups and downs for everyone. Not only the personal lives of individuals but the economy of the country as a whole has also taken a hit in this period, due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and the pandemic which imposed all of us to stay in lockdown. With an onset of the changing/recovering economy of the country, the Government of India passed three ‘Agricultural Bills' known as ‘Farm Bills 2020', assent of which was given by the President on 27th September, 2020.

Agriculture, as we see, is the most important sector of the Indian Economy. Agrarian Relations cover the production relations in the field of agriculture. Not only production, it covers the aspect of marketing and consumption as well. It's a network of social relationship which determines as to ‘who' cultivates the land, ‘what', ‘how' and for ‘whom' to cultivate. It defines the relationship between the ownership of land and land tenure. At present, there has been a lot of unrest and protests from the farmers regarding the enactment of these new farm bills. Agrarian unrest is not something new. There have been various riots and revolts of various nature in many different parts of the country. But there is to connect a pattern of political economy of these unrests, which many a times gives a resemblance of certain ‘class' character. (Desai). Where the State and the landlords suppress the agitation by the peasants.

In the present case, after the enactment of the Farm Bills, 2020, there has been an unrest since 26th November on the borders of Delhi, protests carried out by the farmers who are mostly originated from Punjab and Haryana. (Pandey, 2020). To get into the details as to why there has been protests by the farmers regarding the bills, firstly there is a need to know what these bills comprise of.

The first Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 17th September, 2020. It is the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020[1]. This Act creates a national framework of contract farming via an agreement between the farmers and buyers before there is any production or rearing of the farm products. (Javaid, 2020). It aims to transfer the risk of unpredictability from the farmers, onto the larger capital providers or sponsors.

Farmers shall be open to availability of modern machinery and better technology for agriculture. This shall lead to better inputs and hence better outputs, reduce the cost of marketing on the end of farmers, eliminate the middle man and creates a direct link between the farmers and industries. (Baral, 2020) The aim of this Bill is to improve the agrarian relations of the farmers and empower and protect them by providing better means of production techniques.

However, the Government failed to note the point that under contract farming between the farmers and industries, the farmers shall be kept in a weaker position w.r.t these big corporate and companies in terms of negotiations or settling of disputes as they will have an upper hand by providing the farmers with the requires modern technology for farming.

The Second Bill which is released, is the Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020. This Bill was also passed on 17th September, 2020, with an aim to permit both intra and inter state trade of the produce by farmers which shall be beyond the actual premises of Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) markets and other markets which shall be included under the APMC state Acts. (Javaid, 2020).

This Bill, according to the Central Government, is passed with an aim to reduce the marketing cost and the cost of transportation as well as to encourage the farmers to use the means of electronic trading. However, what the Government failed to consider is the loss in business of the Mandis and the revenue generated from those. There has not been any clarity as to what shall be the relevance of MSP (Minimum selling price) when the produce is sold outside the state (Baral, 2020)

Lastly, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. The original act was enacted in 1955. The Amendment act removes produce like cereals, pulses, onions, oilseeds and potatoes from the ambit of essential commodities. This was done to prevent hoarding and stocking of commodities, which is to be done only during the times of war, famines or any other calamity. This is done to bring price stability for both farmers and the consumers. The big corporates and industries though, have the freedom to hoard the commodities and have an upper hand on the farmers in terms of less price cultivation in future. (Baral, 2020)

Agitating farmers are not only facing the biting cold but also real tight state surveillance and arrest. This, in addition to the water cannons and tear gas shelling has also been met with the slander hurled at them by social media spin artists. One of the contentions of the agricultural laborers is that the public-distribution system, a direct result of government procurement from the mandis, will be hit if the mandi system eventually collapses. This will be a big loss to the livelihood of many.

Looking at the perspective of all the three farm bills it can be seen that the Central Government is trying to bring about a change in the agrarian relations of the economy, cutting out the middle man and bringing the reigns in the hands of big multinational corporates and industries. On the face of it, it shows that it is beneficial for the farmers as they shall be provided with better technology and less chances of exploitation.

But the people of the country are not unaware and neither are the farmers. The protests which are taking place is due to the reason that the farmers feel that by enactment of these Acts, there is more for them to lose than gain. (Javaid, 2020).

The onset of peasant struggle with enactment of these laws is not unknown. According to the reports of Maharashtra Rajya Bazaar Samiti, there has a loss of business of various small-scale market committees. The Peasant Struggle in India isn't new, just that earlier, in the pre-Independence period, it was the alliance of the landlords and colonial government, and now it is the big corporations and the Central Government. It is the same struggle, just different story.

End-Notes:
  1. Act No. 20 of 2020

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