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The Farmers’ Agitation and The Farm Reforms

The enraging ongoing agitation of the farmers of Punjab, Haryana and the Western U.P is an ill-conceived wrongly motivated incident affecting the peace and tranquillity of the nation especially viewed in the background of the resurging COVID 19 cases. The three-part bill of the Agri reforms consists of (1) The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, (2) the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and (3) the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 are aimed at a direct free market access all over India (One Nation – One Market) to the farmers removing the intermediaries, creating “competitive alternative trading channels” that “promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-State and intra-State outside APMC” which will be fulfilling the prima facie objective of bringing an era of uncontrolled well-being of the farmers. The benefits coming out of the reforms will be shared by the farmers.

“Transactions in the trade area are free of an obligation to pay a fee to the APMC and no licences are required by buyers. These trade areas across the country therefore constitute an alternate marketing space that purports to operate seamlessly across the country”. This bill also aims at a “facilitative framework for electronic trading”. The APMC Bypass bill thus “also permits electronic trading platforms”. If a dispassionate study of the advantage the farmers may derive out of the bill is undertaken and if understood without any bias and prejudice, the farmers would not have taken such an opposition to the bill. The agitation is primarily motivated because of the purported fear of non-implementation MSP (Minimum Support Price). Undoing the misconceptions about MSP regime is the important task and if it done, the bill will become a game changer.

The essence of the bill is an attempt to improve private participation in the farm trade. The aim is to double the farm income by implementing the reforms sincerely and diligently keeping the objectives of reforms in sight without any distortion. Further a mechanism is introduced that all dues of farmers should be cleared within three days of procurement, failing which the former can lodge a complaint. Another notable aspect of this law is that the area sub-divisional magistrate has to ensure grievance redressal within one month. If implemented properly it will benefit other advances like direct transfer of benefits, cold chain network, and crop diversification schemes. The reforms, if implemented meticulously, will tackle cartelisation in mandis, ease private and corporate trade so that more buyers at farmgate will lead to better prices. “A phased, orderly transition through farm reforms and income support offers a win-win situation for farmers and traders. It will also correct the harmful distortion in India’s food market.”

An opposition for the sake of opposition is not conducive to democratic process to create wealth of the nation. What is required is that “Discourse and critical thinking are essential tools when it comes to securing progress in a democratic society. But in the end, unity and engaged participation are what make it happen.”

At this hour of grave concern over the agitation, it is essential that the government should engage in a sincere and purposeful dialogue with the agitating farmers to clear the misconceptions they nurse with regard to the bill to make the agitators understand the finer aspects of the advantages they derive out of the bill and if necessary making the required amendment to the bill to alleviate the genuine grievances of the agitating farmers which will pave the amicable acceptance of the bill. All the problems are to be settled through democratic deliberation to arrive at consensus to solve the problems.

The government has already extended their offer for dialogue and discussion on the matters of importance and diverse stand and sought the co-operation of the agitating farmers to amicably settle the contested matters. However, unfortunately the agitating farmers are taking a rigid stand overtly supported by some of the political parties unmindful of the repercussions it would create in the economic field. Supply disruptions and movement restrictions would adversely affect the price structure of the products resulting in unbridled negative agriculture growth and its consequent GDP decline. Ultimately, the need of the hour is to find a peaceful and consensual settlement of all tainted issues through unbiased and nonprejudicial dialogue for the veritable realisation of the objectives of the Agri bills removing the genuine and honest fears expressed by the agitating farmers leading to a win-win situation for both the warring parties not only for their mutual benefit but also for the robust growth of the economy particularly during this COVID pandemic.

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