Shyam Krishna Kalita
When I used to watch Old Bollywood Movies, where farmers were exploited by the main villain, I always wished to be there to protect them. No doubt, we can’t do anything in those cinemas. But in real life, whenever the farmers are exploited, we should always raise the voice to protect them. In the words of our 2nd Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri Ji, “JAI JAWAN, JAI KISAN”, farmers are one of the most important people in this world. Farmers are the backbone of our society. Since every person needs proper foods to survive, farmers play a significant role in everyone’s life. In addition to this, farmers contributed 17% of the Indian economy. And yet, they are deprived of every luxury of society. Meanwhile, in 2019, 10,281 farmers committed suicide in India. Agriculture is the largest source of livelihood in India. 70% of India’s rural households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood.
From British Raj to the Zamindari system, everyone tried to loot the farmers. And so, in the year of 1963, the Agricultural Produce Market Committee was created to protect the farmers from exploitation. Under the APMC Act, 1963, nobody can directly buy produces from the farmers, nor can the farmers sell directly. This Act provides for the establishment of Mandis. These Mandis are established at different places within the State by the State Government. Farmers are required to sell their produce at these Mandis only through auction. The auction should be started with the minimum support price (MSP), which is fixed by the Government of the State.
Albeit, these provisions were made to protect the farmers from the exploitation, these are proved to be failures in many aspects. For instance, the APMC legislation criminalizes setting up other competing markets or buying agricultural produce from outside the market yard or sub-yard. This leads to the prevention of competition and hence farmers are deprived to get a better price in many cases. Moreover, the middlemen, many a time took the advantage of it and the farmers are left with no other option but to sell their produce at the price of the middleman. So with the change of society and time, there was the need to reform this Act.
In the month of September 2020; three Bills, aiming to reform this Act, were passed in both the Houses of the Parliament, but during the process, most of the members of the opposite party left the House. These Bills will allow the farmers and the traders to sell and to purchase the farm produce outside the registered Mandis. There will be no more inter-state or intra-state barrier. It will help the farmers to get a better price as compared to restricted mandis. These Bills will also create a competitive market environment. Moreover, these Bills remove the middleman (of Government).
Now, the big question is whether these Bills will be successful to protect the farmers from exploitation? Due to the removal of the inter-state barrier, the State will lose revenues. Again, nobody except the Government knows what will happen to the commission agent in States if the entire farm trade moves out of mandis. Again, the farmers may not be as expert as this middleman in negotiating while selling their produce. It may end the MSP system, which at least fixed the minimum price of the produce. Again, the big companies will get the benefit of stocking the produce of farmers. So these Bills are praised and criticized at the same time. It is the duty of the government to make these Bills a perfect one to protect the farmers.
A democratic Government is for the people, by the people and of the people. The essence of democracy lies not in the ability of citizens to rule but in their ability to replace one government with another in order to prevent the formation of a permanent majority and thus, able to check the threat of tyranny. Hence, being a responsible government, the legislative branch of our government should make the laws to protect our farmers from exploitation and all kind of development.
Disclaimer: Views are personal