On 20th September 2020, the two houses of the parliament passed two bills namely the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance Farm Services Bill. And on 21st September another bill called the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill was passed. These three bills constitute the Farm Bill 2020 which has been the subject of a lot of imbalance in the country.

Salient features of the Farm Bill 2020:

  • The new Farm Bill provides an alternate platform for the farmers to sell their produce other than the mandis regulated by the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee). The farmers now have the power to sell and engage directly with the private corporations, agri-business companies, retailers and exporters in bulk.
  • In spite of this, the APMCs will not be discontinued but will have to compete with the alternate platforms just like the competition between the private and public enterprises of the banking, insurance or telecom sectors.
  • Prohibits the state government from imposing a market fee or cess on the farmers for trading outside the ‘trade area’, ie, trading outside the mandis regulated by the APMCs.
  • While trading outside the mandis regulated by the APMCs, the MSP (Minimum support price) will not be recognised as in that case the prices of goods will be decided through negotiations between the farmer and the private entity to which the farmer is selling his produce.
  • This bill also eliminates the use of middlemen like the Arhatiyas as a consequence of which they will lose their 2.5% commission and interest on loans.
  • The new Farm Bill also remove the restrictions on intra-state trade thus encouraging it.
  • In addition to the above features, the bill also provides benefits for small and marginal farmers with less than five hectares of land.

Farmers reaction to the Farm Bill 2020:

For many generations, farmers have been working tirelessly to get a good harvest to sell and earn a livelihood. The introduction of the new Farm Bill has turned their lives upside down by bringing change into the system. Now we all know that change is usually met with resistance to the proposed change and so it is almost expected for the farmers to be apprehensive about this bill because of various justifiable reasons.

The farmers that are used to trading with the mandis for hundreds of years fear that the big private enterprises and exporters could exploit the farmers by dictating the prices for their own commercial profit and dominate the industry with their intimidating money power. The absence of the Minimum Support Price is not making the farmers feel any better. They feel that the bill is more in favour of increasing the benefits of the profit hungry private corporations rather than protecting the interests of the local farmers. Another important point to be noted is that the commission agents like Arhatiyas who have been in the business for generations are going to lose their source of income due to the provisions of the new bill and the farmers are going to lose out on the valuable inputs and information they used to provide earlier.

If the above reasons were not enough to infuriate the farmers and other related parties, to add fuel to the fire, neither the farmers’ organisations nor the state government was consulted before the three bills were passed.

In Punjab and Haryana, farmers, commission agents and workers have come together to protest for the revocation of the Farm Bill 2020.

On Friday, September 25th, farmers’ organisations across the country gave a call for a bandh to protest the three bills passed by Parliament.

Prominent figures like Shiromani Akali Dal have raised apprehensions, lending their voice to the farmers’ demands.

The police departments have heightened the security in a number of areas on account of the protests so that violence can be kept at bay.

Just like any other big amendment introduced by the government the new farm bill too has its own pros and cons. In spite of the uproar from the farmers’ side, the government stays positive on the impact that this bill will have on the farmers and the country as a whole. At the end of the day justice shall prevail and hopefully the government will act in accordance with the people as a whole.