Farm bills bring ‘freedom’ to farmers, Opposition ‘misleading, lying’ to them: PM
New Delhi: In a forceful defence of the farm sector reform bills, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asserted that they have brought “freedom” to farmers and given them a “protection shield”, as he accused the opposition of standing with middlemen and “misleading” peasants by “lying” to them.
With opposition parties dubbing the three bills, passed by Lok Sabha and now to be tabled in Rajya Sabha, as “anti-farmers” and the BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal quitting his government to protest them, Modi refuted their criticism, describing these proposed laws as “historic” and stating that they will unshackle farmers by allowing them to sell their produce anywhere at a better price.
Speaking at the virtual launch of several rail projects in Bihar, Modi chose to speak at length on these bills, which have sparked protests by farmers in states like Punjab and Haryana, and sought to assuage concerns of the farming community by assuring them the government procurement of their produce will continue and so will the minimum support price (MSP).
“This misinformation is now being spread that the government will not give MSP benefits to farmers. Manufactured claims are being made the government will no longer purchase wheat, rice and other grains. This is a blatant lie aimed at deceiving farmers,” Modi said.
In the 21st century, these bills are the need of the country, he said, adding that farmers will no longer remain in shackles and sell his produce wherever they want.
Launching a blistering attack on the Congress without naming the party, Modi said those who ruled the country for decades are “deceiving and misleading” farmers by spreading misleading and “lying” to them on the provisions of these bills, which seek to replace ordinances brought in by the Centre.
Those who are opposing the changes in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act had made similar promises in their manifesto, he said in a reference to the Congress and added that when the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government has done it, then these people are opposing it.
“These people forget as to how much aware the country’s farmers are. Farmers can see that some people do not like the opportunities being provided to them. They can see who are standing with the middlemen who pocket a big part of their earnings,” the prime minister said.
These reforms will act as a “protection shield” for farmers from these middlemen between farmers and consumers, he added.
“These reforms will provide our food-providers (farmers) many more options to sell their produce. These legislations have ridded our farmers of many shackles and brought them freedom,” Modi said.
He noted that everyone but farmers were allowed so far to sell their products anywhere they wanted and asserted that they can do so now across the country at a better price once.
Modi listed a number of measures, including hike in MSPs and direct cash transfer to farmers, taken by his government since it came to power first in 2014 to assert that no dispensation has done as much for farmers as the NDA has in its six years of rule at the Centre.
Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, which seek to promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade in agricultural produce, amid protests by the ruling NDA constituent Shiromani Akali Dal and the opposition.
Another bill related to the farm sector, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, was passed on Tuesday.
Controversial farm bills explained
New Delhi: Three key agriculture Bills, approved by the Lok Sabha, are facing staunch opposition from within the ruling coalition with senior minister Harsmirat Kaur Badal resigning in protest and farmers hitting the street.
Here is an explainer on what the new Bills are all about:
1.The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020: This proposed legislation seeks to give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside the notified APMC market yards (mandis). This is aimed at facilitating remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels.
Farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their produce under this Act.
Benefits: It will open more choices for farmers, reduce marketing costs, and help them get better prices. It will also help farmers of regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers in areas with shortages at lower prices.
Opposition: States will lose revenue as they will not be able to collect ‘mandi fees’ if farmers sell their produce outside registered Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) markets.
Also, commission agents stand to lose if the entire farm trade moves out of mandis.
But, more importantly, farmers and opposition parties fear it may eventually lead to the end of the minimum support price (MSP) -based procurement system and may lead to exploitation by private companies.
2.The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020: This proposed legislation seeks to give farmers the right to enter into a contract with agribusiness firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for the sale of future farming produce at a pre-agreed price.
Benefits: It seeks to transfer the risk of market unpredictability from farmers to sponsors. Besides giving them access to modern tech and better inputs, it also seeks to boost farmer income by reducing the cost of marketing.
Opposition: Farmer bodies and opposition parties say the law is framed to suit “big corporates who seek to dominate the Indian food and agriculture business”. It will weaken the negotiating power of farmers. Also, big private companies, exporters, wholesalers, and processors may get an edge.
3.The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020: This proposed legislation seeks to remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion, and potatoes from the list of essential commodities and will do away with the imposition of stock holding limits on such items except under ‘extraordinary circumstances’ like war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamity.
Benefits: It is aimed at attracting private investment/FDI into the farm sector as well as bringing price stability.
Opposition: Big companies will have the freedom to stock commodities, helping them dictate terms to farmers.
Government Stand: Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said the MSP mechanism for farmers will continue. Also, the proposed laws would not encroach upon the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Acts of the states.
These Bills are to ensure that farmers get better prices for their produce without being subject to the regulations of mandis, he has said, adding the Acts will increase competition and promote private investment which will help in the development of farm infrastructure and generate employment.