BY NIDHI SINGH
Agriculture is undeniably the backbone of the Indian economy. This sector fulfils the food requirement of the country and is the primary source of livelihood for almost 58 percent of the total population (as per 2018). Despite all these contributions to the economy, the sector has continued to face problems and issues and all of this got intensified with the onset of COVID-19.
One of the major issues that Indian agriculture is facing is the labour scarcity and this is the scenario for even states like Punjab and Haryana primarily because majority of agricultural labour in these states is derived from Eastern part of India and with the lockdown a massive migration of the labour-class was witnessed.
Added to this has been the problem of transportation of goods and crops across the states. This again has brought the entire agricultural sector to a halt and impacted the food chain supply.
Considering the fact that majority of the agricultural sector deals in the informal or the unorganised sector , the government needs to understand the plight of the workers and labourers and should bring initiatives accordingly.
On the contrary with the passing of the The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, The Essential Commodities Act (Amendment) Bill and Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill , the small farmers with land holding of less than an acre feel that the new laws would make them more prone to problems and give the agri-based industries and corporates an upper hand.
Agriculture, at the very first place ,was a state subject and the central government has arbitrarily entered into this domain.
One contention regarding this law is that it has no provision to penalise the big companies who haven’t registered their contracts with the farmer for any farming contract. This again would give these firms an upper hand to exploit the farmers.
What is even more concerning is that this law didn’t specify that the crop price should be at least equivalent or more than the MSP( Minimum Support Price). This implies that contractors could pay whatever they feel like for the crop and farmers may not even receive the bare minimum at the end of the day.
Further under the Essential Commodities Act, the government is in a sense promoting big companies and firm to hoard as much quantity of food as they want until and unless there is a steep rise in price. As a result again it is the farmers who are the sufferers of the unethical practice of hoarding since this law calls for government intervention only when there is 50% price rise over previous year’s price in case of non-perishable goods and 100% price rise over previous year’s perishable goods.
Under the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, farmers would now have the freedom of inter and intra state trade outside the premise of APMC (Agricultural Produce and Livestock Market Committee) markets. It is however speculated that this will destroy the level playing field amongst the APMC markets.
Farmers also demanded that the new markets be regulated by the state and local authorities, because they feel contacting the sub- divisional magistrate court in case of disputes, unethical practices, etc would be out of the capacity , this demand however has been completely ignored.
The farmers wanted a law which would benefit them and would solve their growing problems and issues, instead the government gifted them with The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, The Essential Commodities Act (Amendment) Bill and Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill , which has again added to their problems rather than resolving them.