September 17, 2021 marks one year of passing three highly contested agriculture laws in India. We have all seen images and videos of the farmers, mainly from Punjab, protesting in Delhi. The three laws they do not want are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. The Delhi Police has even suggested in September that the farmers are buying extra tractors to use them in the protest.
How did the farmers’ protests begin?
The protests began on November 25, 2020 when thousands of farmers from Punjab and Haryana marched out in a massive ‘Dilli Chalo’ campaign. But it all began on June 5, 2020 when the government introduced the 3 bills we have mentioned above. These three Bills were meant to push the agricultural sector in India from a Government-run to a private-run sector. On September 20, 2020, the Bills were passed by voice vote in a chaotic session. 4 days later, Punjabi farmers organised a rail strike. But on September 27, the 3 Bills became Laws with presidential consent. They were known as Farm Laws.
The farmers protested in Delhi at the Nirankari Grounds till January 26. On Republic Day, they marched towards the Red Fort, where police opened teargas shelling and lathi charge on them. Inside the Red Fort, a section of protesters climbed poles and walls and hoisted the Nishan Sahib flag on a pole. One protester unfortunately died in the chaos.
What are Farm Bills about?
Here is a low-down on three laws that the farmers are protesting against.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill:
Farmers are allowed by this to sell their produce outside the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) regulated markets, popularly called mandis, they can sell the crops within the state and in other states as well, without any extra charges being applied by any state governments.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill: This Bill makes provisions for setting up a framework for contract farming. So a farmer and a buyer can strike a deal before the farming is done.
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020: This allows the central government to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances such as war and famine, under normal circumstances, these items would be out of government control.
Why are the farmers against these Bills?
Much of government procurement at minimum support prices (MSP) for crops like paddy, wheat, pulses, cotton, groundnut and mustard happens inside APMC mandis. Once the trade moves out of the mandis, they will become powerless. Also, private contract buyers would be able to order whatever crops they prefer to be produced, creating an imbalance. The farmers fear these laws will lead to the abolishment of the MSP, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.