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Ideas Explained: How the farm bills continue to divide opinions

While Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab, calls them anti-farmer, Union Minister Hardeep S Puri states they will bring transformative changes.

Behind sacrilege, a ‘drug addict’ Class 7 dropout who took part in farm stir tooMembers of various farmers organisations stage a protest against agriculture-related Ordinances, in Patiala on September 21, 2020. (Express Photo: Harmeet Sodhi)

The farm Bills passed by the Parliament over the past few days continue to throw up polarising opinions across the political spectrum.

In his opinion piece in The Indian Express, Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab, says that “one doesn’t really know where to begin talking about the three disastrous farm bills, which the central government is touting as a watershed moment for India’s agriculture sector but which are blatantly crafted to fill the pockets of capitalist cronies of the BJP at the cost of the poor farmers”.

He states that the only reason for these “sly, undemocratic and anti-federal actions” on the part of the central government is that “these bills hide more than they reveal”. He writes that the Bills give the poor, small and marginal farmers of India (constituting over 85 per cent of India’s farmers) no assurance of protection of their interests, their livelihoods, and their future.

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“They make no mention whatsoever of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime, which is the lifeline of these poor farmers and their key to survival, as also the survival of the nation’s agriculture sector,” writes Singh.

The Centre has claimed that these new laws will free the farmers from the monopolistic clutches of the intermediaries (arhtiyas). But countering this assertion, Singh asks: “did they even once ask the farmers if they wanted to be freed from these arhtiyas, whom BJP’s own leader, late Sushma Swaraj, had once described as the most trusted and biggest support system for farmers?”

He further asks: “how will such legislation prevent the farmers from falling into the clutches of the monopolistic big corporates, who have progressively been taking over one sector after another under the benign eye of the BJP leadership?”

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But speaking in favour of the reform Bills, Union Minister Hardeep S Puri, in his opinion piece, argues that the landmark Bills will create an ecosystem to facilitate remunerative prices to farmers through competitive alternative trading channels. He states the Opposition must not spread misinformation.

“These recommendations have been made several times in the past, including by the Swaminathan Committee, which suggested the removal of the mandi tax, creation of a single market and facilitating contract farming,” states Puri.

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“Even the Congress manifesto in 2019 said that changes in the APMC Act will be made so that all the impediments on the export and inter-state trade of agricultural produce are removed. They had also promised to repeal the Essential Commodities Act and establish farmers’ markets, where farmers can sell their produce without any controls,” points out Puri.

On the issue of MSPs, Puri writes: “The PM and agriculture minister have clarified several times that fixed MSP and government purchase at MSP will continue and that the farm bills are not related to the MSP. In fact, the MSP for paddy has gone up 2.4 times and for wheat 1.7 times in the past five years of our government”.

First published on: 23-09-2020 at 07:00 IST
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