Watch | Why are the agriculture bills being opposed?

Two of the three controversials Bills on agriculture reforms are set to become law after being passed by the Rajya Sabha on September 20.

The three Bills are – The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

These Bills were introduced to replace Ordinances promulgated by the Centre earlier.

Farmers and farmer associations across the country have been protesting against the ordinances. The Punjab Assembly on August 28 passed a resolution rejecting the Centre’s ordinances.

Terming the two agriculture marketing reform Bills as “anti-farmer” legislation, Shiromani Akali Dal MP and Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Union Cabinet.

Since agriculture and markets are State subjects the Bills are being seen as an encroachment on the functions of the States, and against the spirit of cooperative federalism.

Here are what the three Bills constitute and why they are being opposed:

Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020

It aims at opening up agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee or APMC mandis for farmers. It removes barriers to inter-State trade and provides a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce.

It also prohibits State governments from collecting market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets.

Critics view the dismantling of the monopoly of the APMCs as a sign of ending the assured procurement of food grains at minimum support prices or MSP.

Critics argue that ensuring a larger number of farmers get the MSP for their produce and straightening kinks in the APMCs, instead of making these State mechanisms redundant, is the need of the hour.


Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020

This Bill relates to contract farming, providing a framework on trade agreements for the sale and purchase of farm produce.

The Price Assurance Bill, while offering protection to farmers against price exploitation, does not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation.

There is apprehension that the free hand given to private corporate houses could lead to farmer exploitation.


Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance

The Bill is meant to replace an ordinance promulgated in June, in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown.

It says stock limits can only be imposed if retail prices surge 50% above the average in the case of non-perishables and 100% in the case of perishables.

It removes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. The amendment will deregulate the production, storage, movement and distribution of these food commodities.

Critics fear that the Bill would effectively legalise hoarding, as licenses will no longer be required to trade in these commodities.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 4:43:03 AM |

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