India as we all know is a diverse land. Right from its people, culture, religion, land forms to its nature and scenario of farming. This makes any generalised decision taken by the administrative bodies a boon for some and a bane for the others. This brings us to the on-going farmers’ protest against the 3 bills passed by the central government reforming the marketing scenario for agricultural produce in the country.
As per the reforms, these bills will help a certain section of the Indian farmers while posing as a threat to the others. To understand this conflict of interest, one must first reject the idea of farmers in our country being homogenous. While generally, the farmers in the western part of India (especially in the states of Punjab and Haryana) have larger farms with the provisions for mechanized farming, those in eastern India (Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, etc) have smaller fragmented pieces of land. The latter do not have the necessary resources to facilitate larger yields and earn bigger profits. This stark contrast brings a disparity in the way the bills are being perceived by the farmers across India.
What are the 3 bills that have become the bone of contention?
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020
- The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment), 2020
Actual effect of the Farmers’ Bill on Small Scale vs Large Scale Farmers
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 – According to this bill the farmers and companies buying their produce will be bound by a legal contract. As per this contract, the farmers will sell their produce at a predetermined rate to the companies. The company on the other hand has the power to determine the quality of the produce, delivery time, etc. This bill protects the farmers from any type of monetary exploitation in the hands of the companies and also ensures that the company gets a predetermined quality of the produce within a stipulated time.
Issue – While this bill poses as a theoretical win-win solution for both the company and the farmers, a more practical aspect of farming has been overlooked. Considering the sorry financial state of farmers in our country, the concept of contract farming will put the farmers at a risk of legal penalties in case of failed deliveries or compromised quality. It is being said that the bill did not take into account the uncertain nature of agriculture (due to natural causes). The companies being larger bodies will have a higher control over the legalities and it will be tough for them to fight such organizations. Farmers especially those operating at a larger scale are the ones who will be affected the most in these circumstances. They will be at a high risk of facing bankruptcy, incur losses and become debt ridden. This could lead to them losing their land which is their primary source of earning a livelihood.
The small scale farmers on the other hand might not get to be a part of contract farming at all as organizations in need of procuring high amounts of produce will not want to make multiple deals and lose a considerable amount on the processing of these contracts. It is more beneficial for them to approach large scale farmers for the same.
While the other 2 bills have also both proposed solutions and raised concerns, not only for farmers, but also for the consumers in general, the above elaborated one has gained the most importance. The heightened protests against this bill in the capital city of Delhi has attracted international attention from the likes of Rihanna and Gretta Thunberg. This has again triggered the film and sports fraternity of the country to post and share Tweets criticizing the unsolicited involvement of such international personalities. There are a number of theories being thrown around about the Indian celebrities being mouth pieces of the government. While it is difficult to confirm any of these claims, the similarity in the tonality of the posts shared by many of them are uncanny. The Farmers’ protest which is an extremely complex concept to wrap one’s head around. This gets even more complex if one analyzes it from the perspective of the well being of farmers from all across India. It has become a landmark incident in the socio-political history of India that is sure to reform the face of agriculture and its marketing considerably in the coming time.