Even as farmers in Punjab and Haryana are taking to the streets to protest the passage of three farm reform laws, some of their counterparts in Maharashtra will be doing exactly the opposite. The farmer’s union founded by noted farmer leader Sharad Joshi is planning to hit the streets on September 25 in support of the legislation that they said was long overdue.
On Sunday, the Rajya Sabha passed three ordinances announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in June. The three bills aim at bringing about structural reforms in the agriculture sector, in terms of agricultural marketing, by allowing free trade outside the purview of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) by amending the Essential Commodities Act (which does away with the government’s power to impose stock limits or impose trade restrictions like export ban) and streamline contract farming with regard to the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020.
Out of the three bills, farmers and farm leaders have expressed grave concerns over the first one that they claim was a roundabout way to eliminate procurement of wheat and paddy under minimum support price (MSP) programme. Last year, farmers in Punjab and Haryana sold wheat and paddy worth over Rs 80,000 crore under Food Corporation of India (FCI). The protests by farmers also led SAD minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to resign from the cabinet.
Back in Maharashtra, farm organisations have welcomed the bills from the first day. Former MP Raju Shetti had welcomed the move but asked for a mechanism to prevent farmers from being cheated by fly-by-night operators. Similarly, Anil Ghanwat, president of Shetkari Sanghtana, has called this move a landmark reform in the sector, which will help farmers gain financial independence.
Shetti, who is part of All India Kisan Sangharsha Sammitee (AIKSS), the umbrella body of over 200 farmer organisation, on Sunday issued a statement criticising what he called “corporatisation” of the farm sector.
Ghanwat told The Indian Express said their decision to support the legislation was necessary as they were aimed at helping farmers. He said the fear expressed by farmers in other states was uncalled for. “[This] will allow farmers to become real owners of their produce. Barring the mandis, the present system did not present any other avenue to offload produce. Now, it is expected that as the private sector gets into the picture, farmers will have more than one market to choose from,” he said.
In Maharashtra, Ghanwat pointed out MSP operations were few and far between. He also said growers of soybean, urad, moong, toor, which are the main crops in the state, sold bulk of their produce at the mandis. “The condition is the same in most states — only 10 per cent farmers in the country are able to sell a substantial quantity of their produce un” he said.
Ghanwat said the new laws would witness private players investing in rural infrastructure.
“The protests had “invisible” forces who did not want the present system to be disturbed. We have already spoken to protesting farmers in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and we were able to convinced them of view,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines