Two private member Bills presented in Parliament in 2018 could hold the key to loosening the deadlock between the government and protesting farmers in North India. The Bills could not be enacted despite huge pressure from the farmers, who even met the President in May 2018 for seeking his pro-active intervention in the enactment of these legislations. The Bills are now in focus again during the ‘Dilli Chalo’ protest of the farmers.
What are these Bills and why are these Bills still relevant for the farmers? The Indian Express explains.
What were these private member Bills?
The first Private member Bill was ‘The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018′, and the second was ‘The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Agricultural Commodities Bill 2018’. These Bills were drafted by the members of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), the umbrella organisation of 500 farmers’ unions across the country in the ongoing ‘Dilli Chalo’ Protest.
The Bills were presented by the then Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetty, a renowned farm leader, and got the support of 21 political parties including Congress, Shiv Sena, CPI (M), BSP, TMC, DMK and NCP. Experts say Both Bills supplements each other.
A private member’s Bill is presented by an MP who is not a minister. In contrast, bills introduced by the ministers are considered government Bills.
What were the main demands in these Bills?
As the very titles of these suggested that farmers wanted freedom from indebtedness and remunerative price for their crop. The first bill obligates the govt to waive all loans of all peasants, including landless peasants, agricultural workers, sharecroppers, fishermen which includes declaration of private loans as null and void and payment to the creditors by the govt without any recovery from the debtors. In 28 pages draft of first Bill includes demands like an immediate one-time complete loan waiver, a right on all farmers to obtain institutional credit; a provision for farmers suffering from natural disasters or distress to obtain protection from the debt trap, and the subsequent constitution of a National Commission and State Commissions with power to pass awards and recommend appropriate measures for the relief of farmers from disasters and distress. The Bill further says that the reason to make this bill is that the nation is indebted to farmers for the food security and sovereignty functions that they contribute. In spite of their contribution, 1000s of farmers are committing suicide, millions are in distress due to indebtedness and it is the obligation of the government to prevent such things which are related to government policies.
The second bill obligates the govt to regulate and decrease the cost price of farm inputs including diesel, seeds, fertilizers, insecticides, machinery and equipment, to set up a Cost and Prices Commission in order to assess all the cost of production which shall include computing of paid-up costs, family labour, rent of land, depreciation of capital inputs, interest and insurance costs designated as C2 costs, and to ensure through public and private purchasing agencies that the farmers get a guaranteed MSP of C2 + 50%.
What happened to these Bills after presenting in Parliament?
Both the Bills have not been considered till date. “Generally after the dissolution of Lok Sabha the private Member’s Bills are kept aside and can be presented again. But if government wanted then both these bills could have been discussed in detail in the parliament in the past two years,” said Bharti Kisan Union (BKU), Dakaunda, General secretary Jagmohan Singh. He said the demands of the farmers are even now the same as those the Bills sought to redress. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
Why are these relevant even today?
“Even today farmers are fighting for getting the respectable price of their crops as recommended in the Dr. Swaminathan report. Farmers suicides are still continuing due to mounting debts, a result of the poor crop prices they are getting,” explained Jagmohan Singh. He claimed farmers are selling at half the MSP desite the government’s own support prices for 24 crops.
Dr Darshan Pal of Krantikari Kisan Union, also a member of the AIKSCC, said to confer these two basic entitlements – related to freedom from indebtedness and guaranteed remunerative prices – on all farmers of the country does not require any additional elucidation since the situation of farmers in the country is apparent and reflected in official data and reports too. “Along with our demand of repealing these three anti-farmers Bills, our demands today are similar to what we drafted in those Bill,” he stressed.
“These private Bills are more relevant when things are only getting worse in rural India which is reeling under a severe economic, social and environmental crisis. The gross ignorance and callous mismanagement by the government has put the farmers in a tight spot. Unemployment is at its highest,” said Prof. Gian Singh, a farm economy expert who has conducted several studies on farmers’ suicide and rural indebtedness.
“In those private member Bills farmers leaders had pointed out how markets are being run by trader cartels looting primary producers right under the nose of the government. Now, the three farm Bills will lead to monopoly of trader cartels while purchasing from farmers,” he added.
Don’t miss from Explained | Who is Deep Sidhu and why is he getting attention in the farmers’ protests?
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines