Rupinder Kumar, a small farmer with five acres of land at Modi Khera village in Punjab’s Fazilka district, grows wheat, cotton and kinnow. He has been selling his kinnow to the traders of Bihar, Bengal, UP and Delhi for the past 10 years.
He also sells his wheat to the government at the government mandi at Minimum Support Price (MSP), cotton to private players and sometimes the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) when private players offer rates much below MSP.
“I face no hindrance in selling my crop to anyone. The central government is saying that it is providing the freedom to farmers to sell their crop to anyone and anywhere in the country, which the farmers of the country have already been doing. Rather, the government is restricting this freedom by ignoring the state government-run Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) under the state APMC Acts under the new law,” said Rupinder, who owns a four-acre orchard of kinnow and grows cotton and wheat in the remaining one acre.
“Currently, farmers in Punjab can sell their crop in government mandis and even outside the government mandi to a private player, but the new law will restrict their sale only to private players,” he said, adding that the Bill does not favour farmers or give them freedom, and tips the scales in favour of private players.
Gurmail Singh of Jalandhar has been selling his seed potato and table potato to the traders of West Bengal, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, UP and Andhra Pradesh for the past 15 years. “Nobody is stopping me from selling the crop in any mandi of the country and to anyone in the country so I am already enjoying this freedom. So what is new for me in these laws?” asked Gurmail Singh, who grows potatoes on over 100 acres of land, along with wheat and paddy which he sells in the government mandis.
Akashdeep Singh, a young farmer and trader from Parveznagar village in Kapurthala, said, “I have been selling my produce like muskmelon, watermelon, green peas to Rajasthan, Kashmir, Gujarat, Delhi and other states for the past over five years.”
A paddy and Basmati grower from Patti in Tarn Taran district said he sells his crop to a Delhi-based rice exporter who gives him a good rate. “But yes, when he gives me less rate of paddy against the MSP fixed by the government, I sell it in government mandi because I have that option available right now which would not be available in the new law,” he added.
There are thousands of farmers in Punjab who are selling their fruit, vegetables, Basmati and melons in various other states for decades without any hindrance.
A trader from Jalandhar said that he is procuring apples from farmers in Kashmir, bananas from farmers in Maharashtra and kinnow and potato from Punjab’s farmers to sell these across the country and there is no barrier on him as well as farmers to do so.
District Mandi Officer (DMO) of Kapurthala district Arvinder Singh Sahi said: “The wheat and paddy are grown in bulk in Punjab, procurement of which is not possible without government’s support. The government cannot treat wheat and paddy like fruit, vegetables and other non-MSP crops because the produce of other non-MSP crops is quite less compared to these crops. Neither the Punjab state government nor any private player can manage to purchase such a huge quantity of both the crops without the support of the central government,” Satnam Singh Sahni, general secretary of Bharti Kisan Union Doaba, told The Indian Express.
“Currently there is no barrier on farmers for selling their crop anywhere and to anyone and like fruit, vegetables, they can sell wheat and paddy to the private players but majority farmers sell to the government only because it gives an assured rate (MSP) as a private player cannot give them even MSP rate. For other non-government procured crops, farmers have no option but to sell to private players only. And these laws are meant only to run away from the responsibility of purchasing wheat and paddy,” he added.
Sahni said that in the laws, nothing new was offered by the government except it was favouring big corporates and snatching MSP even on wheat and paddy, adding that the real freedom is to sell anywhere and to anyone at MSP rate.
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