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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Agricultural Reforms and Protests of Farmers

Farmers produce all types of food for everyone, and they join the army and police to give protection to the people of their respective countries. But even then, their economic and social status is not good worldwide. They have to work hard to survive because farming is not profitable even in developed countries. Marketing of agricultural product is controlled by large corporations in most of the countries and in some countries, it is controlled by their respective government, but their government is controlled by the large corporates, so the situation for the farmers remains the same.

In British Punjab 1907, the British government passed three Acts; 1. The Doab Bari Act 2. Punjab Land Colonization Act 3. Punjab Land Alienation Act. With the enactment of these laws, the British Government became the master of land irrigated by Upper Bari Doab Canal in Lyallpur area and denied the ownership right of farmers. Protest of farmers was organized by Sardar Ajit Singh, Sardar Kishan Singh, Ghasita Ram, and Amba Prasad in 1907 to scrap these three Acts. The British Government listened to the farmers favourably and accepted their demands. “Pagri Sambhaal Jatta” was the slogan of that protest.

Sir Chhotu Ram, Revenue Minister in British Punjab, passed Agricultural Reform Bills;1. Punjab Relief Indebtedness Act of 1934 2. Punjab Debtor's Protection Act of 1936. These laws emancipated the peasants from the clutches of the money lenders and restored the right of land to the tillers. These are the real agricultural reform laws. Farmers virtually worship Chaudhary Chhotu Ram and he will be remembered forever because he convinced the British Government to pass these agrarian laws.

Sir William Hawkins requested Mughal King Jahangir in 1608 to allow the East Indian Company to carry on trading in his kingdom. King Jahangir did not allow them because later on, they may create a problem in his kingdom. In 1615, Sir Thomas Rao developed contacts with some close associates of the King and finally convinced him, somehow, to do trading in his kingdom. Ultimately the East Indian Company captured his whole kingdom after King Aurangzeb.

Baba Banda Singh Bahadur established his rule in Punjab from 1709 to 1716. He abolished the Zamindari system and granted property right to the tillers of the land. Banda Bahadur is remembered with high regards by the people as he did a marvellous deed for the people.

Farm Reform September 2020

In 2017, the Central Government released the " Model Farming Reforms ". In July 2019, a committee consisting of seven chief ministers was set up to discuss the implementation of farming reforms. The Central Government of India promulgated three ordinances (temporary laws) in the first week of June 2020 which dealt with agricultural produce, their sale, hoarding, marketing, and contract farming reforms.

These ordinances were introduced as bills and passed by the Lok Sabha on September 15 and 18, 2020. Later on September 22, the Raja Sabha also passed these three bills. The president signed the bills on September 28 and these three bills were converted into Acts.

According to the 3 new Acts (farm laws), farmers can sell agricultural products outside the notified Agricultural Product Market Committee (APMC) mandi. The law will allow inter-state and intra-state trade and encourage voluntary electronic trading of agricultural products. The new laws prevent the State Government from collecting a market fee or levy for trade outside the APMC mandi. In contract farming, the price will be fixed before the sowing of the crops. Farmers will pay for the seed, fertilizers pesticides, weedicides and monitoring (supervision) fee to the company as decided.

Three Farm Acts:

  1. The farmers produce, trade and commerce (protection and facilitation) ordinance, 2020.

  2. The farmers (empowerment and protection) agreement on price assurance and farm services ordinance 2020

  3. The essential commodities (amendment) ordinance 2020.

Demands of farmers

The Farmers Union believes that these 3 Farm Acts, are anti-farmers and pro-corporations and are essentially death warrants for farmers, so they do not want any such benefit or favour from the Government. They appeal the Centre Government to scrap these 3 Farm Reform Acts 2020. In case the Centre Government wants to reform the agriculture, then apply Swami Nathan Report, improve the existing Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandi, and Minimum Support Price (MSP). They already have a well developed (APMC) mandi system and it should be maintained and Minimum Support Price (MSP) should be granted by the Centre Government. Agricultural product marketing and trade should be done by the Government.

Farmers believe as mentioned below:

  1. New Farm Reform (three Farm Acts) system was adopted in Bihar State in 2006 and it failed badly. Farmers of Bihar did not get any benefit from these new Farm Acts, rather they became poorer and they had to work in other states.

  2. The new Farm Reform system was adopted in many European countries and America and it did not prove to be good. In America, less than 2% of people are involved in farming (average landholding is 440 acres) and on average, a farmer gets 60,000 dollars subsidy per year. In India, 70% of villagers are doing farming (60 crores) and the average holding is 3 acres and farmers get subsidy about 200 dollars.

  3. In 1998, the private sector was involved in the sugar industry in India but it did not improve the conditions of the sugar industry.

  4. With the new Farm Reform laws, farmers will be at the mercy of the large corporates and they will definitely be exploited. The Government cannot control what the corporates do.

  5. Farmers are of the opinion that dismantling of the APMC mandi will encourage the abolishment of procurement of their crops at the minimum support price (MSP).

  6. Some corporates are controlling some political parties so how they will spare the poor farmers?

  7. All the businesses have suffered a lot due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the agriculture sector has felt the minimum effect of coronavirus. Now corporates want to control the agriculture sector to compensate for their losses.

  8. Farmer organizations were not consulted regarding these new farm laws and these laws were passed hurriedly in Parliament without sufficient discussion. Opposition parties were not in favour of these farm laws. In Rajah Sabha, these bills were passed without proper voting.

  9. Farmers think that there may be something wrong as the Centre Government is giving benefit to the farmers forcibly by the new farm reform acts. Farmers appeal to the Centre Government that we do not need benefits from these new reform farm laws. As per the constitution, the State Government can pass the agricultural ordinances, but why is the Centre Government is taking so much interest in farm reform laws?

Views of Agricultural Experts and Economists

In European countries, a low percentage of the population is involved in farming. In America, only less than 2 % of the people are farmers. In India, 70% village, people are in farming, so about 60 crore people are in agriculture. Corporates want to see that only 10 crore people should remain in farming and 50 crore become landless labourers so that corporates could get cheap labour to increase their profits. Corporates got it done by the political leaders by passing 3 Farm Reform Acts. These are not agricultural reforms but are reforms to help the corporates. At present India is not in a position to give jobs to 50 crore displaced farmers.

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