The three bills, however, have been viciously protested by the opposition who claim that the Centre is trying to do away with the minimum support price (MSP). Not only the opposition but BJP’s oldest ally Shiromani Akali Dal has also protested against the bills and said that it will review its membership in the ruling NDA.
So what are these bills and why are the farmers protesting against them?
Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020:
The central government has informed that this bill allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of APMC markets and other markets notified under the state APMC Acts.
The Centre has said that this bill will also permit the “electronic trading of scheduled farmers’ produce (agricultural produce regulated under any state APMC Act) in the specified trade area”.
Under this bill, the state governments will also be prohibited from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for a trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’, the Centre has noted.
Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020:
This bill talks about creating a framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer before the production or rearing of any farm produce. According to the government, the agreement must “provide for a conciliation board as well as a conciliation process for settlement of disputes”.
The central government has further said that this bill will provide a three-level dispute settlement mechanism -the conciliation board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Appellate Authority.
Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020:
The Centre has said that the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 will allow it to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances (such as war and famine). The government further said that stock limits may be imposed on agricultural produce only if there is a steep price rise. The bill also requires that imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce must be based on price rise.
How will these bills benefit the farmers?
The government has repeatedly said that these bills will revolutionise the lives of the farmers in India, asserting that “MSP was, MSP is, and MSP will continue in the future”. It has further asserted that these bills will help the farmers to get connected to big traders and exporters, bringing profit to agriculture.
“MSP will stay, I want to assure all of you.”
Meanwhile, has also said that these bills will not affect the State APMC Act. APMC will be in the state but there will be inter-state trade outside its periphery and the farmers will be able to sell their produce from their field, home and any place after the legislation comes into existence.
The Congress which is opposing the reforms to the Agricultural Reform Bills by Modi govt, in its 2019 manifesto had mentioned how they would repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committee’s Act and make the trade-in agriculture produce-including export and inter-state trade-free from all restrictions.