Farm bills aim to unshackle agriculture sector; only opposition from those with vested interest in mandi system

By engaging directly with prospective buyers, agriculturists will be able to evade paying massive commissions at APMCs to sell their produce

Tarkesh Jha September 18, 2020 17:34:09 IST
Farm bills aim to unshackle agriculture sector; only opposition from those with vested interest in mandi system

Poll results show the BJP lost 14 rural seats while the opposition added the same number of seats to its tally. If Rupani seeks to reinvigorate BJP in the rural belt, he must address the roots of the agrarian crisis in Gujarat. Reuters

The Lok Sabha passed the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 on Thursday. It had already approved the vital amendment to the Essential Commodities Act earlier in the ongoing session.

These decisions will offer farmers the freedom to sell their produce beyond the restrictions of the ‘mandis’ of the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC). It permits them to indulge into contract farming with a legal support framework and opens up a wider market for their products by removing the barriers of inter-state trading.

Entrepreneurs will not have to abide by a stringent stock limit for commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes. With the new bill, they will be able to take advantage of cold storage facilities and prevent the wastage of excess produce of the farmers caused by a fruitful harvest season.

Free trade, effective and mutually beneficial collaboration with larger businesses and elimination of hindrances on mass purchase and storage of vital products are instrumental in unshackling the massive underlying potential in the farm industry.

Only political powers that harness vested interests in middlemen can possibly develop an opposition to these bills. Or, as in the case of the Indian National Congress (INC), spread a misinformation campaign on the three farm bills in question. Apparently, talks are doing the rounds that farmers will be deprived of a minimum support price (MSP) for their products through these acts.

Firstly, it has been clarified by key stakeholders in the government that the MSP will continue to exist parallel to these reforms. Secondly, the defanging of APMC is in fact an attempt to ensure that farmers manage to gain a greater value for their produce than these support prices that are arbitrarily fixated by mandi agents according to their whims and fancies.

By engaging directly with prospective buyers, the agriculturists will now be able to evade paying massive commissions at APMCs to sell their produce. The market intermediaries had been making hefty profits over the years because of the huge cost difference between the price paid to farmers and the cost at which the final produce is sold to consumers.

Moreover, the creeping demand for an ‘MSP’ to exist is because of the vast insecurity of agriculture not being a profitable, professional industry that adequately rewards its growers. Hence, the farmers crave for the assurance of a minimum fee for their produce; regardless of the fact that the market price of that commodity could multiply extensively if a larger base of customers is available to them.

Unsurprisingly, forces that so far have benefitted by constraining the growers into a dogma are baffled by these long-due measures. Mandis had become a breeding ground for unceremonious political powers at local levels.

Local politicians derived revenue through the commissions gained by the agents in these places. Hence, Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s resignation from the union cabinet in opposition of these bills glaringly indicates the possibly illicit profits that regional parties acquired from the mandis. Pressure is being mounted on Jannayak Janata Party chief Dushyant Chautala to oppose this decision in Haryana, thus pushing the Manohar Lal Khattar-government on the edge.

As for the Congress, having mentioned their intent to take these steps in their manifesto before the general elections in 2019, the party is just solidifying its intellectual dishonesty and petty opportunism at the expense of farmers of this country.

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