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On table now, issues which Opp raised in House, Govt dismissed

The Opposition had urged the government not to pass the Bills in a hurry, but to send them for Parliamentary scrutiny given the sweep, intent and implications.

Farmers protest at Singhu border on Friday. (Express Photo By Amit Mehra)

It was a crisis foretold.

The farmer protests on the borders of Delhi and their discussions with the government at Vigyan Bhavan — another round of talks will be held Saturday — are a rerun of the concerns raised in Parliament this September over the three farm Bills, and suggestions which the government chose to ignore.

The Opposition had urged the government not to pass the Bills in a hurry, but to send them for Parliamentary scrutiny given the sweep, intent and implications. From MSP to mandi system, contract farming to dispute resolution mechanism, these concerns of the farmers had been flagged by MPs, even from parties such as AIADMK and BJD which are considered friendly to the government. Yet Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who is now leading the talks with the farmers, told Lok Sabha on September 17: “I want to request the farmers not to get influenced by disinformation for political ends (rajnitik drishti se kiye gaye kisi bhi dushprachar se prabhavit na ho).”


This is what members said during the debates in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on September 17 and September 20:

The worry

– Initiating the debate in Lok Sabha on September 17, Ravneet Singh Bittu, Congress MP from Ludhiana, said: “If you give trouble to the farmers of Punjab, if you put Punjab, a border state, in crisis, the country will suffer… If you commit atrocities on the farmers of Punjab and Haryana, how will the country function? Our soldiers too hail from Punjab and Haryana. There is bound to be a reaction. There will be unrest. You create difficulties regarding SYL canal and MSP. What will you gain out of it except unrest?”

Farmers’ protest Explained: What are the big concerns, what can the government negotiate?

– At the end of the debate, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: “You are saying the farmers will benefit because of this (Bills). Show me one farmer who is happy with these Bills. Look at Haryana and Punjab, the farmers are unhappy. Wahan aag lag gayi hai. Both the states are in ferment.”

– In Rajya Sabha on September 20, SAD’s Naresh Gujral said: “Don’t think the farmers of Punjab are weak… Mr Minister, I have only one request… the spark that has been lit in Punjab and Haryana… don’t allow it to turn into a fire. Otherwise it may be written in history… that lamhon ne khata ki thi, sadiyon ne saza paayi.”


– Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda of JD(S): “One of the central fears of the farmers is that the ordinances may be a ploy and a precursor to phase out grain procurement at minimum support prices. This they perceive would throw them to the mercy of private players and big corporates… Since the ordinances were brought hurriedly during a raging pandemic, there appears to be widespread doubt.”

– S R Balasubramoniyan (AIADMK) “The Bill is silent about the Minimum Support Price (MSP) which is essential for the survival of farmers. The Government should stipulate mandatory rules for the Minimum Support Price. That is more important for the farmers than anything else.”

– Partap Singh Bajwa (Congress): “Agriculture and market, according to Schedule VII of the Constitution, are state subjects. The ordinance and Bills are against our federal cooperative spirit. Further, we don’t want APMC and Minimum Support Price to be tinkered with.”

Explained Ideas | Farmer protests: Why the govt should not allow the positions to harden

– K Shanmugasundaram (DMK): “The Bill is silent about the Minimum Support Price which is essential for the survival of farmers. The Government should stipulate mandatory rules for MSP.”

– Arvind Sawant (Shiv Sena): “Include a provision to say that no agreement (for purchase) can be entered into which is less than the MSP so that farmers will get the base price and they are convinced.”

– Ram Mohan Naidu (TDP): “There has been no mention about the MSP in any of the three Bills and this is leading to confusion. The Government is saying that there is nothing to fear about the MSP. If that is the case, then why do they not make it liable for the private players to ensure that MSP is granted to the farmers? If that is included, then much of the ruckus that is being created will be settled.”

– Binoy Viswam (CPI): “I request the Minister… if the statement about the MSP is true and sincere… he should move an official amendment here, saying that he will add a clause ensuring the MSP for the farmers. In that case, I promise you, even though we oppose you politically, the Communist Party of India will support this Bill.”

– Tomar’s response, both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, was “MSP-based procurement was there in the country, is there, and will continue.”

On dispute resolution

– Ram Mohan Naidu (TDP): “On the question of Dispute Resolution Mechanism… much of it has been delegated to the Executive, like the Magistrates and District Collectors. Now, the courts are not being involved in this. This provision would be a partial solution. Apart from trade related disputes, farmers will have other legal battles also which could be land related. In these times, I think, it would be better if the Government thinks of setting up Agricultural Tribunals in line with the provision of Article 323 (b) of Constitution of India.”

– S Jothimani (Congress): “This Bill says that there is a dispute settlement mechanism. He or she can go to the conciliation board. If nothing happens in 30 days, a farmer can approach the Sub-Divisional Magistrate. If it does not work, then there is a District Collector. In this process, simple and poor farmers will be pitted in a long legal battle against corporate giants. What is the guarantee that justice will be granted after all this mental trauma? In the process, farmers’ livelihood and hope will be destroyed.”

– Anubhav Mohanty (BJD): “The dispute resolution mechanism is too complicated for small farmers… This Bill should go to the Standing Committee for scrutiny for more and more clarity. Our farmers feed us. I think this Bill has been brought very hastily.”

– Tomar defended the dispute resolution mechanism envisaged in the Bills.

On mandi system

– Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar (TDP): “Farmers have serious concerns about this Bill. Firstly, it prohibits State Governments from collecting the market fee, cess or levy for trade outside notified APMC mandis, removes inter-State trade barriers and provides framework for electronic trading directly between a buyer and a farmer. In simple words, it breaks the States’ control over farmers, enabling them to choose whom they want to sell to… without paying the market fee, the corporate sector will purchase agriculture produce outside the market through brokers according to the price fixed by them.”

– K Keshava Rao (TRS): “You are creating an extra zone in the geological order. They already have APMCs. We know that still people can buy outside the APMC, but the regulated body being there gives some kind of protection and some kind of psychological backing to the farmer that whenever he needs the price, whenever he needs protection, he goes back to the Market Committee regulated zone and gets the money. Now, you have kept the entire thing open. Anybody with a PAN can start an electronic trading thing.”

– Anubhav Mohanty (BJD): It “may be not direct but the indirect impact of the Bill is that APMCs may fade away. Though the Bill does not abolish existing APMCs, it may end up having that impact by creating platforms where zero-tax trade can take place. Notwithstanding… problems, APMCs fulfil some important functions, especially for small and marginal farmers. They provide an assured market to farmers, provide storage facilities, act as a medium for price discovery at the local level.”

Mahua Moitra (TMC): “Section 6 of the Bill lays out that no market fee, cess or levy under the State APMC Acts shall now be levied on farmers and traders by the State Government for trading in a trade area as defined in the new Bill. However, under the existing State Acts, this market fee will be payable. So, this is going to lead to a substantial loss to the State exchequer because now any area outside the notified area will de facto be treated as a trade area where no State revenue can be realized. One farmer or trader trading in a trade area and another being charged across the road by the State is going to create a ridiculous rural divide.”

– Sukhbir Singh Badal (SAD): “The farmers of Punjab have a lot of apprehensions. The MNCs, tycoons and magnates will indulge in private purchase of food grains as they will not be taxed. In the beginning, they may lure by giving more rate than the MSP, but when they establish their monopoly, they will fleece and strangle the farmers.”

– K K Ragesh (CPM): “Our mandi system… yes… there are a lot many limitations. But those limitations… need to be addressed and rectified. But, at the same time, the mandi system provides a kind of competitiveness and that ensures at least some sort of remunerative prices to our farmers. Through this Bill, the Government is simply slow-poisoning the mandi system.”

n Tomar said the mandi tax imposed by state governments range between 2 to 8.5 per cent. He said when trade takes place outside the mandis, “this 8.5 per cent tax will not be there and farmers are going to directly benefit from this.”

On contract farming

– N K Premachandran (RSP): “Contract farming worldwide has proved to be a failure.”

– Kalyan Banerjee (TMC): “In a country where more than 85 per cent cultivators are marginal and small farmers, the Bill does not actually seem to cater to the plight and safety of the poor farmers. By promoting contract farming, the Bill instead tends to permanently empower the big landlords, agricultural business lobbies.”

– K Shanmugasundaram (DMK): “Giving legal sanction to contract farming would help corporates enter the agriculture sector, and may increase the productivity, but would it help the farmers.”

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