Editorial

Farmers Movement: Alarming Call For Modi Government

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for whom the three agriculture laws are a major part of the legacy he wants to leave behind, has been tirelessly trying to allay the fears of the farmers regarding MSP, stating that the reforms do not harm MSP at all, but the protesting farmers just do not believe him, regardless. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 are there to stay. That much is for sure. Unless there’s a change of guard at the Centre and the next government is elected on the promise that all three agriculture laws will be scrapped. But even that cannot happen before 2024, which is a long way away from now and by then, time will have elapsed and what if the Modi Government takes steps to ensure the three laws take deep roots in the agriculture ecosystem that it will become difficult to scrap them, revoke any of the three laws, without major repercussions? The protesting farmers are basically saying that minus the APMC and the MSP, big corporations will weaken the government’s procurement system and they will be at the mercy of the sharks. They want the government to continue to buy wheat and rice from them at guaranteed minimum support prices. They don’t want Amazon and Reliance to come shake up the place and shake them up, too, in the bargain. They accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government of being overly big-business friendly and not bothered about the plight of farmers, big or small. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 was designed to “bypass” APMCs and shift trade to “outside” markets, out of the purview of government regulations and oversight. The ‘farm reforms’, according to the Centre, have done away with “many ills”. But it’s a fact that most states were lukewarm to the agri-reforms recommended under the Centre’s earlier “Model Act.” The occasional state which agreed to deregulate failed miserably, like Bihar. Those against the agri-reforms say the laws are an invitation to ‘big players’ to descend on agri markets and overwhelm small and marginal farmers, and “local” traders. The government, according to the critics, has willingly given up its regulatory authority and from now on it’ll be fragmented markets with fragmented regulatory structures. Also, the government refused to commit to legally guarantee remunerative prices; commit to maximum procurement of various agri-products; commit to market intervention; commit to agri-credit reforms for small and marginal landholders and commit to reforms in crop insurance and disaster compensation. The anti-agri reforms lobby insists that the government should not have given up its authority to regulate. There should have been no blanket de-regulation. There would be “extraordinary circumstances” which would require government intervention and regulation. Regulatory powers have to be with the government. This lobby did not want the government to tinker with the existing set-up and walk away from responsibility.

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