Author: Aheli Ghoshal Student, Amity University, Kolkata
“By the time the country celebrates, its 75th independence anniversary in 2022, farmers’ income will have doubled. This is my dream.” – Narendra Modi.
However, our Prime Minister’s dream seems to come along with some discrepancies, taking into account the protests regarding three farm laws, which were passed by the parliament last year.
But why? Why are so many farmers desperate to stop the implementation these three laws? The answer lies in this article.
THE SCENARIO BEFORE THE FARM LAWS WERE INTRODUCED
Before the laws were passed, the farmers residing in any state of India, had to go to various licenced commission agents, who are also known as “Arthiyas” to sell their products in particular “mandis”. These mandis are regulated by the state governments under the “Agriculture Produce Market Committee Act” (APMC).
So, in simple words, the government would buy the products of the farmers at a fixed rate – or the Minimum Support Price (MSP). These agents are enrolled with small yet important works, such as polishing and packaging of the products. These persons are the middleman, who takes about 1.5%- 3% as commission, on the aggregate sale of the products.
WHY WERE THE FARM LAWS INTRODUCED?
Although, MSPs guarantee farmers a fixed price of the products, however, a majority of the Indian farmers do not know the advantage of the APMCS. Why? Because they sell maximum of the products to other buyers, outside APMCs.
The commission percentage taken by the Arthiyas were causing financial loss to the farmers.
The Farm laws were introduced to remove this system of APMCs, and to provide more benefits to the farmers. We will come to know about them in the next part.
WHAT ARE THE FARM LAWS?
Last year, three laws were passed by the parliament-
THE FARMERS’ PRODUCE TRADE AND COMMERCE (PROMOTION AND FACILITATION) ACT: –
This act assures the farmers that they can sell all of their products outside APMCs. Thus, they are reduced from the burden of paying commissions to the Arthiyas.
or the “mandi tax” which they had to pay the state government.
It also states that farm produces can be made available in a variety of electronic trading platforms such as Grofers, BigBasket and so on.
THE FARMERS (EMPOWERMENT AND PROTECTION) AGREEMENT OF PRICE ASSURANCE ADD FARM SERVICES ACT: –
This act states that all the farmers shall be entering into farming agreement such as “Trade And Commerce” agreements with any person, to sell their farm produces at a fixed price, which shall be decided upon in the agreement. It also states that there will be no control of the APMCs, be it external or internal control.
Section 5 of the act states that-
A guaranteed price shall be paid for all farm produces.
A clear price reference must be mentioned for any additional amount over and above the price, which is guaranteed, which includes bonus or premium, so that the best amount can be ensured to the farmers. Also, any such price reference might be linked to the existing prices in the specified APMC, or electronic trading and transaction platform, or any other suitable benchmark prices.
Section 4 of the act also states that the price for a particular farm produce is subjected to the quality, grade and standard of the product.
THE ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES (AMENDMENT) ACT: –
This law provides products such as food grains, pulses, edible oils, and onion for free for trade, except in extraordinary situations.
The government has said that all the three new farm laws will help the farmers a lot through greater private investments.
WHY ARE THE FARMERS PROTESTING ABOUT THE LAWS?
The massive protests are going on due to some strong points raised by the farmers of India. Let us see what they are.
First of all, the laws are portrayed in a quite weak and confusing manner, where the concept of MSP or Minimum Support Price is not visible. So, since there is no existence of MSP, the farmers do not have any assured income from farming as well. Therefore, the farmers are scared regarding the fact that they are going to be exploited by the corporate sectors.
It is clearly mentioned in the laws that the price to be given to the farmers is subjected to the quality, grade and standard of the said product. So, farmers can be declined of a decent price, while the corporate sectors can say that the products were not good at all.
Another issue raised by the farmers is that why are the APMCs not destroyed? The fact must be noted that the APMCs are still existing, it is just that they do not have any control over the farm produces anymore.
Also, question arises that what will happen to the people who were employed in the work of APMCs? Won’t unemployment increase in India?
CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF THE FARM LAWS
The three questions which arises in this respect are –
Does center have the authority to make these laws?
To get the answer, we must acknowledge the existence of the 7th schedule of the constitution, under which there are three lists-
List I (under which center can make laws)
List II (Under which state can make laws)
List III (or the concurrent list, under which both state and center can make laws)
Now the the concept of agriculture lies in list II or the state list. However, article 249 of the constitution clearly states that if a matter is of national interest, even if it lies under the state list, then the center can make laws on it. Also, the concurrent list confirms the fact that even the center can make laws on agriculture.
But however, as per “The Constitution (Third Amendment) Act, 1954”, it is clearly mentioned that center can make laws on matters relating to state government only for a period of 5 years, starting from the year 1950.
So, the CENTER CANNOT MAKE LAWS IN THIS CASE.
No consultation was made with the farmers of India, regarding whether the farm laws were supported by them or not. Even an RTI was filed, where the government was asked to show a proof that where they had consulted with the farmers. As a response, the government said that they have “no records” of such.
The votes regarding the farm bills in the Rajya Sabha was not done as per rules
Under article 100 of the constitution, all the questions made by any member of the house shall be determined by a majority of votes of the members present and voting. Here in this case, all the bills were passed by voice vote or oral votes, the existence of which is not mentioned in the constitution, although the opposition had asked for division of votes, through which the actual number of people who are supporting or are against the laws could have been identified.
Thus, farm laws are unconstitutional with respect to article 107, which says that a bill shall not be deemed to have been passed, unless it has been agreed to by both houses.
A FOUR MEMBER COMMITTEE
When the matter of the farm laws was not getting solved, the Supreme Court made a four-member committee to provide negotiations between the center and the farmers. However, after a detailed bio check of the four members of the said committee, it is revealed that all the members were supportive of the three laws. So, the committee is indeed a biased one.
Moreover, the question arises that why Supreme Court is forcing the farmers to go into a mediation, when the farmers had not requested Supreme Court for a mediation on the said three laws. This is indeed a violation on the field of mediation.
STAY ORDER ON THE FARM LAWS
Some weeks earlier, the Supreme Court gave a stay order on the three laws. But however, it must be noted that it did not give a stay order on the laws itself, but it gave a stay order on “the implementation of the laws”.
Whenever a stay order is given on any matter, the grounds on which the stay order has been enacted must be provided. However, in the case of the farm laws, this has not been done and it is indeed an unconstitutional thing. Supreme Court simply said that they have given a stay order on the laws because the laws were “hurting the feelings of the farmers”.
WHY ARE ONLY FARMERS OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA PROTESTING?
The concept of MSP is not known to a majority of the Indian farmers. As per reports only 6% of the farmers get profit from the MSP system.
In spite of this, two states of India, namely Punjab and Haryana have received a massive profit from the MSP system, where the procurement of paddy and wheat crops range between 75 to 80%.
Thus, this is the major reason why mostly the farmers belonging to Punjab and Haryana are protesting and demanding that MSP should be made mandatory.
The farmers of India with their sheer hard work, made our country to be known as an agricultural country. However, as the years passes by, more and more cases of suicides done by farmers are increasing. As told to parliament last year, nearly 10,281 farmers have died by suicide. Moreover, a lot many farmers have died during this ongoing protest.
Taking this report in account and writing from a completely neutral point of view, I believe that justice should prevail. Regarding these three farm laws, nothing should be done which is unjustified or which is illogical. The farmers of India should be provided with all the positivities that the current government can provide, since they are the one largely responsible for making India an agricultural country.