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Farm Bills, 2020


Introduction:

When people talk about which year was the most eventful in the coming years, 2020 will most likely be at the number one spot, and when it relates to India, it is indeed on some other level, with NRC and CAA protests, celebrity deaths and drug cases, the India-China tussle, and COVID covering the latter half of the year. However, there is one topic or concern that manages to garner all of the attention, and that is Farm Bills. Thousands of farmers marched to Delhi to force the government to repeal the law.

The federal government has passed three farm bills. Let us also travel down the path of knowledge in order to obtain some understanding into this problem.


Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020:

  • This Act, also referred as the APMC Bypass Act, has overcoming jurisdiction over the contradictory provisions of the State APMC Acts, according to Clause 14.

  • Clauses 3 and 4 provide farmers the ability to trade their agricultural produce inter-state or intra-state from sources other than the physical markets established under the state Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee regulations (APMC Acts).

  • Clause 6 forbids the acquisition of any market tax or cess on the transaction of farmers' produce outside the APMC mandis under the State APMC Acts.

  • The Act gives the Central Government the authority to create guidelines and restrictions.

Issues:

  • The opposition claims that the Act's abovementioned "benefits" will lead to agriculture's corporatization. Local farmers may not find sufficient demand for their goods because the Act does not provide a fixed MSP.

  • The majority of farmers are tiny landowners that lack the resources to transport their goods over long distances. They will be obliged to sell their product in the local market at a reduced price than the MSP in the end.

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance, Farm Services Act, 2020:

  • This Act aims to provide a legislative structure in India for contract farming, which allows farmers to enter into a direct arrangement with a buyer to sell their goods at fixed pricing.

  • Companies, individuals, Societies, and Firms are examples of ‘sponsors,' or entities that may participate in an agreement with farmers to acquire their agricultural output.

  • Farming agreements can involve a variety of mutually agreeable terms between sponsors and farmers, such as the delivery of various farming materials, farming method, and quantity of production.

  • The Act also establishes a three-tier dispute resolution mechanism, consisting of a conciliation board made up of representatives from the parties to the agreement, an appeal authority and sub-divisional magistrate.

Issues:

  • The main point of contention in contract farming is the negotiation power of the parties involved. Due to the farmers' inability to adequately bargain or afford any type of long-standing legal procedure, corporations or wealthy sponsors may not always pay a fair price for their goods.

  • Furthermore, the entire farmer business will fall into the hands of capitalists who would abuse the field and the farmers for their own personal gain, resulting in a loss of the country's agro-ecological inclusiveness.

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020:

  • This Act aims to limit the government's ability to produce, supply, and distribute certain crucial products by revising and deleting specific products from the list of important commodities, such as potatoes, Onions, Pulses, and Cereals.

  • Farming produce stock restrictions will be based on market price increases. Only if there is a 100% rise in the retail price of horticulture produce and a 50% surge in the selling value of non-perishable agricultural food goods may they be enforced. Furthermore, the rise is based on the price that prevailed throughout the previous twelve months. OR whatever is lesser, the average retail price for the previous five years.

Issues:

  • The adjustments to the regulation of stock limitations were made to encourage foreign direct/private sector investment in agriculture. Furthermore, if the stock limit maintains within the installed capacity, the stock limit regulation will not apply to value chain participants in agricultural agreements. Furthermore, because the government has no information about the source or ownership of stocks, this would legitimize hoarding.

Farmer’s Protest:

Since September 2020, there has been a smouldering of discontent with the three core farm bills. Thousands of farmers from Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan have been heading toward the national capital and are approaching the state borders.

Farmers have chosen to exert pressure on the Union government following failing to gain backing from their individual state administrations, which is why they are traveling to Delhi. While the BJP governments in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have failed to persuade farmers, the governments of Punjab and Haryana have given their movement their full support. Farmers ask the Union government to either repeal the three laws or pass a new law that guarantees them the minimum support price (MSP) for their harvests.


Who are these Protestors?

Most of those farmers who are protesting are adherents of the Sikh religious minority who hail from Haryana and Punjab. Farmers from throughout the country have held solidarity demonstrations. Thousands of farmers have been camped outside New Delhi's capital since November, keeping watch in enormous tent towns and threatening to enter if the farm regulations are not overturned. The demonstration has brought to light the stark reality of inequality in most of the country.


What to Protestors Want?

The demonstrators are criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attempt to change India's agriculture.

The demonstrators want Mr. Modi to reverse recent farming rules that will reduce the government's participation in agriculture and give private investors greater room. The government claims that the new legislation will free farmers and private investment, resulting in increased growth. Farmers, on the other hand, are wary, fearful that removing governmental protections that they currently believe are insufficient will leave them vulnerable to greedy businesses.


India was able to overcome its food problem in the 1960s because to support from the government for farmers, which also included guaranteed minimum prices for some important commodities. However, as India's economy has liberalized in recent decades, Mr. Modi — who wants the nation's economy to roughly double by 2024 — believes that such a huge government involvement is no longer feasible.

Farmers, on the other hand, claim that even with the current safeguards, they are floundering. They claim that market-friendly legislation will gradually abolish regulatory support, leaving them destitute, with little hope of a different living in the weaker economy.


What caused the violence to erupt?

Thousands of farmers protested in New Delhi, disrupting what was supposed to be a peaceful protest amid the Prime Minister's holiday gatherings and a military parade.

Some farmers deviated from the main march and dismantled police barricades with tractors. Tridents, Long swords, sharp daggers, and war axes were common among the farmers' weapons, albeit they were mostly ceremonial. Despite the Covid-19 epidemic in India, most demonstrators did not appear to be wearing masks.

Officers armed with assault rifles were dispatched by police commanders. They squatted in the center of major thoroughfares, tear gas suffocating them as they aimed their firearms at the masses. Protesters were beaten with batons by police in several spots, according to video evidence.


The farmers believe that the government and foreign forces fuelled the violence in an attempt to derail their months-long nonviolent protest.

The farmers mocked the authorities while waving flags. They also penetrated the Red Fort, the renowned palace that once operated as the residence of India's Mughal kings, and raised a flag that is commonly flown on Sikh temples atop the ramparts.

Farmers were shown on local television stations dumping the body of a demonstrator in the middle of a road. The man was shot, they alleged, but authorities stated he died when his tractor collapsed.

An official from the Home Affairs Ministry stated that the Indian government had temporarily halted internet connections in districts that have been hotspots of unrest for months.


Is there political support for Protesting farmers?

Except for the ruling BJP and its ally, the JJP, all political parties in Haryana are supporting farmers in their protest. The farmers' agitation has been openly supported by the Congress, led by Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and the INLD, led by Abhay Chautala. It suits the Haryana opposition to keep pounding the BJP on farmers' issues and putting pressure on the JJP to leave the alliance.

Raking up the farmers' agitation has indeed yielded consequences for the Congress in the recent Baroda by poll, when the ruling alliance failed to win despite the BJP and JJP's combined strength.

Punjab, on the other side, is commanded by Captain Amarinder Singh and is governed by the Congress party. Sukhbir Singh Badal's Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the leader of the opposition, has already expressed its support for farmers, with Harsimrat Badal resigning from her ministerial post.

Both the opposition and ruling parties in Punjab have a strong support for farmers. Farmers in Punjab have been protesting and disrupting rail and road networks as a result of the state government's unwavering support for them.

The Haryana and Centre administrations have completely failed to persuade farmers. Farmers have refused to adopt the legislations, despite pledges from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, various Union ministers, and Haryana Chief Minister Khattar. The BJP's efforts to persuade farmers, from social media campaigns to tractor rallies, have all failed miserably.


Is It Possible for A State Like Punjab To Challenge the Farm Bill?

The commitment of Union and the States is accommodated by Article 256 of the Indian Constitution.

“It states that every State's executive power shall be exercised in such a way as to ensure compliance with Parliament's laws and any existing laws that apply in that State, and the Union's executive power shall extend to the giving of such directions to a State as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose.”

As a result, according to Article 256 of the Indian constitution, states are obligated to carry out the Union government's laws.

“Article 131 gives a selective purview of the Supreme Court in disputes involving States, or the Centre on the one hand and one or more States on the other, the Center from one viewpoint and at least one States on the other.”


In the case of State of M.P. v UOI, the court concluded that the validity of Central legislation might be contested in and the Supreme Court and state high courts under Article 32, but that the proven legitimacy of a Central law could not be contested under Article 131. However, in the case of State of Jharkhand v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court reaffirmed Article 131 as a suitable methodology for determining the legality of Central law in 2014. The court determined that the debate must focus on the existence or degree of a legal right rather than a political one in order to use the court's authority under Article 131.

As a result, the States can now resort to the Supreme Court under Article 131 if a valid right derived from a statute or the Constitution is infringed upon. Furthermore, governments cannot examine the legality of central legislation based on political or ideological considerations.


Conclusion:

Farmers' protests in India are escalating, putting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the test for the first time since he took office in 2014.

The government has met with farmers multiple times but has made little headway Meanwhile, the farmers are standing in their heels, camping at outdoor campgrounds even as the weather cools, with night-time temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. "We are prepared to suffer the cold; we do not want to suffer these laws," says Rajinder Singh Deep Singh Wala, deputy president of the Kirti Kisan Union, one of the demonstrating farmer associations.


According to political commentators, the Modi government is taking a less forceful posture toward demonstrators this time around than in the past. When students flocked to the streets protesting new citizenship regulations a year ago, police used force and put demonstrators on buses to imprison them. During the farmer protests in late November, police deployed water cannons and tear gas to keep protesters from approaching Delhi, but have subsequently eschewed such tactics. This softer posture reflects the government's difficulties.

Already, last winter's citizenship demonstrations and today's farmer protests are reflections of a large number of people who believe they are not being heard while laws are drafted. "It demonstrates that India's legislative system is in dire straits, which is why demonstrators are taking to the streets."


References:

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/delhi-violence-international-media-farmers-7162770/

  2. https://www.dw.com/en/india-farmers-protests-give-way-to-new-independent-journalism/a-56890017

  3. https://www.reuters.com/world/india/indian-farmers-vow-carry-months-long-protest-despite-concerns-over-coronavirus-2021-04-15/

  4. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/10/asia/india-farmers-protest-explainer-intl-hnk-scli/index.html

  5. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/topic/Farmer-Protest

  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/27/world/asia/india-farmer-protest.html


By Rakshit Gupta, Intern of May 2021


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