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Indian Farmers Protest 2020-2021

Indian Farmers Protest 2020-2021

Importance Of Agriculture Sector For India 

  • The history of Agriculture in India dates back to Indus Valley Civilization and in some parts of Southern India, it was found to be practised even before the Harappans.
  • Agriculture is one of the most important sectors in India. It accounts for around 18% of GDP.
  • According to a survey published by the Ministry of Labor and Employment, the sector employs 45.7% of the workforce in 2014-15.
  • Almost all varieties of crops are produced in the country due to the diverse climatic conditions.
  • The production increased substantially after the green revolution in the 1970s when HYV (High Yielding Varieties) of seeds were introduced. However, the sector is under distress for last few years with an increasing number of farmers suicides, decreasing remuneration, etc.
  • Area under agriculture has been shrinking — it reduced from 159.5 million hectares (mn ha) in 2010-11 to 157 mn ha in 2015-16 — but the number of operational holdings has been rising (increased from 138.3 million to about 146 million). This reflects in the falling average landholdings’ size of farmers, which has come down from 1.2 ha to about 1.08 ha
  • In the absence of an estimate of the number of farmers in the country, the number of landholdings is taken as its proxy.
  • About 86% of them have an average landholding size less than 2 hectares; they are referred to as India’s small and marginal farmers (SMF). The SMFs operate on about 47.35% of the total agri-area. More than half of India’s farmers reside in the five states of UP, Bihar, Maharashtra, MP, and Karnataka.

Past Efforts By The Government To Reform Agriculture Sector

  • Subsidizing Input Costs: Providing water,power and fertilizer subsidies to decrease production costs.
  • Green Revolution: Increasing yields through better farming practices and timely availability of quality inputs, especially high yielding seeds, chemical fertilisers and water.
  • Stabilizing Output Prices: Through minimum support prices (MSP) and public procurement.
  • Augmenting Non-Crop related Agriculture Income: KUSUM scheme.
  • Providing Direct Income Transfers to Farmers: Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).

Recent Acts | Indian Farmers Protest 2020-2021 

  • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act
  • Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act

  • This Ordinance will provide for the creation of an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers’ produce which facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels.
  • It will promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter–State and intra-State trade and commerce of farmers’ produce outside the physical premises of markets or deemed markets notified under various State agricultural produce market legislations.
  • Besides, the Ordinance will provide a facilitative framework for electronic trading and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • New act frees farmers to sale anywhere in the country apart from the mentioned trade area in the state. This leads to the path of ‘One Nation, One Agricultural Market’.
  • Provisions:
    • Trade of Farmers’ Produce: The Act allows the farmers to trade in outside trade area such as farm gates, factory premises, cold storages, and so on. Previously, it could only be done in the APMC yards or Mandis.
    • Alternative Trading Channels: It facilitates lucrative prices for the farmers via alternative trading channels to promote barrier-free intra-state and inter-state trade of agriculture produce.
    • Electronic Trading: Additionally, it allows the electronic trading of scheduled farmers’ produce (agricultural produce regulated under any state APMC Act) in the specified trade area. It will also facilitate direct and online buying and selling of the agricultural produce via electronic devices and the internet.
    • Market Fee Abolished: As per the Act, the State Governments are prohibited from levying any market fee or cess on farmers, traders and electronic trading platforms for trading farmers’ produce in an ‘outside trade area’.
  • Issues:
    • Corruption in APMC, thus it needs regulation
    • Only marginal price i.e. 10% of the MRP, is paid to the farmer who does all the hard work. Rest is consumed under – market fees, commissions to middle men, cess, tax, transport cost etc.
    • Potential rise of Private mandis, which can effect current procurement law and can change the whole scenario is few years or so.
  • Demand:
    • Private companies should have same basic rules and regulations as APMC
    • MSP needs reformation
    • Dispute settlement have stages i.e. Reconciliation Board, then SDM, and then Collector. Farmers cannot make a plea in civil court
    • Proper regulation required

Understanding Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC)

  • APMC was created to save the farmers from the big landlords who are exploiting them since British era.
  • Under the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, all the agricultural produce goes to mandis or also known as agricultural markets.
  • The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act regulates mandis (agricultural markets).
  • States are geographically divided, and mandis are provided at different places within a state.
  • Farmers are compulsorily required to auction their agricultural produce at a mandi.
  • In these mandis, only licensed traders can purchase from the farmers.
  • APMC have particular trade area and farmers only sell there
  • APMC is a big hit in Punjab and Haryana in particular.
  • Objectives of Mandi System
    • Ensure high prices of agricultural output to farmers: APMCs are required to ensure competition among traders. These traders operating at mandis are expected to purchase the output from farmer through auction.
    • Prevent exploitation of farmers: If a farmer attempts to sell the produce in the open market, he/ she may be forced to sell the output at low rates. On account of perishable nature of agricultural produce, the bargaining power of farmer would be low.

What Is A ‘Trade Area’? | Indian Farmers Protest 2020-2021 

  • Section 2(m) of The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 defines “trade area” as any area or location, place of production, collection and aggregation including (a) farm gates; (b) factory premises; (c) warehouses; (d) silos; (e) cold storages; or (f) any other structures or places, from where trade of farmers’ produce may be undertaken in the territory of India.
  • The definition does not, however, include “the premises, enclosures and structures constituting (i) physical boundaries of principal market yards, sub-market yards and market sub-yards managed and run by the market committees formed under each state APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) Act”.

Understanding MSP

  • Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices.
  • Minimum Support Price (MSP) is the minimum price set by the government for certain agricultural products, at which the products would directly be bought from the farmers if the open market prices are less than the cost incurred.
  • The minimum support prices are announced by the Government of India at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
  • MSP is price fixed by Government of India to protect the producer – farmers – against excessive fall in price during bumper production years.
  • The minimum support prices are a guarantee price for their produce from the Government.
  • The major objectives are to support the farmers from distress sales and to procure food grains for public distribution.
  • In case the market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price due to bumper production and glut in the market, government agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price.
  • Crops covered under MSP:
    • Cereals
      • Paddy
      • wheat
      • Jowar
      • Barley
      • Bajra
      • Ragi
      • Maize
    • Pulses Arhar/tur
      • Gram
      • Moong
      • Lentil
      • Urad
    • Oilseeds
      • Groundnut
      • rapeseed/mustard
      • Soybean
      • Toria
      • Sesamum
      • Sunflower seed
      • Safflower seed
      • Nigerseed
    • Raw cotton
    • Raw jute
    • Copra
    • De-husked coconut
    • Sugarcane (fair and remunerative price)
    • Virginia flu cured (VFC) tobacco

 

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act | Indian Farmers Protest 2020-2021 

  • This ordinance will provide for a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agribusiness firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • Under this act, Farmer can pre-contract with any private player for his produce.
  • The payment for the production is done on delivery, also the agricultural land is not in picture i.e. private company cannot take over the farmland.
  • Provisions:
    • Farming Agreement: The Act provides for a farming agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce.
    • Minimum Period of Farming Agreement: The minimum period of the farming agreement shall be for one crop season or one production cycle of livestock.
    • Maximum Period of Farming Agreement: The maximum period of the farming agreement shall be five years. It also states that if the production cycle of any farming produce is longer and may go beyond five years, the maximum period of farming agreement may be mutually decided by the farmer and the buyer and explicitly mentioned in the farming agreement.
    • Pricing of Farming Produce: The pricing of farming produce and the process of price determination should be mentioned in the agreement. For prices subjected to variation, a guaranteed price for the produce and a clear reference for any additional amount above the guaranteed price must be specified in the agreement.
    • Settlement of Dispute: The Act provides for a three-level dispute settlement mechanism– Conciliation Board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Appellate Authority.
  • Issue:
    • Farmers fear that MSP might come to an end
    • Dispute settlement have nothing to do with judiciary i.e.no intervention by court,
    • Middle man can rise
  • Demand:
    • MSP must stay
    • Judicial intervention should be allowed

Fear Of Private Players In Agricultural Sector– Contract Farming

  • There are fears that contract farming will lead to land loss of the small and marginal farmers to big corporates. However, adequate protection of land ownership is in place to protect farmer interests.
  • The act explicitly prohibits any sponsor firm from acquiring the land of farmers – whether through purchase, lease or mortgage.
  • The point to note is that contract cultivation is voluntary in nature and farmers cannot be forced into an agreement.
  • Contract farming refers to a system in which each member-farmer remains the owner of his land individually, but farming is done jointly. Profit is distributed among the member-farmers in the ratio of land owned by them. Wages are distributed among the member-farmers according to the number of days they worked.
  • In other words, Contract farming refers to pooling of land and practising joint agriculture. Contract farming is not a new concept in India. Since ancient times, Indian farmers have been giving mutual aid to each other in sowing, harvesting, etc. However, the state push towards Contract farming has been mainly since independence.
  • The advantages of Contract farming are as follows:
    • It resolves the problem of subdivision of land.
    • Allocation of tasks among farmers makes tasks easier.
    • Agricultural input can be purchased in bulk at cheaper rates.
    • Similarly, agricultural output can be transported to markets in bulk at cheaper rates.
    • Agricultural machinery such as tractors can be shared leading to lower cost of cultivation.

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act

  • The ECA is an act which was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which if obstructed owing to hoarding or black-marketing would affect the normal life of the people.
  • The ECA was enacted in 1955. This includes foodstuff, drugs, fuel (petroleum products) etc.
  • It has since been used by the Government to regulate the production, supply and distribution of a whole host of commodities it declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available to consumers at fair prices.
  • Additionally, the government can also fix the maximum retail price (MRP) of any packaged product that it declares an “essential commodity”.
  • The list of items under the Act includes drugs, fertilizers, pulses and edible oils, and petroleum and petroleum products.
  • The Centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises, and takes them off the list once the situation improves.
  • Powers of Central Government: The Government of India regulates the production, supply, and distribution of a whole host of commodities it declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available to consumers at fair prices.  The Government can also fix the MRP of any packaged product that it declares an ‘essential commodity’. The Centre can add commodities in this list when the need arises and can take them off the list once the situation improves. If a certain commodity is in short supply and its price is spiking, the Government can notify stock-holding limits on it for a specified period.
  • Powers of State Government:The respective State Governments can choose not to impose any restrictions as notified by the Centre. However, if the restrictions are imposed, traders have to immediately sell any stocks held beyond the mandated quantity into the market. This is done to improve supplies and brings down prices.

Farmers Demands | Indian Farmers Protest 2020-2021 

  • Repeal and summon a special parliament session for 3 new farm laws
  • Make MSP and state procurement of crops a legal right
  • Assure that current procurement system will remain- private mandies must not come into play
  • Implement swaminathan panel report
  • Rise MSP at least 50% more than weighted average cost of production
  • Cut diesel prices for agricultural use by 50%
  • Remove punishment and fine for burning agriculture residue or stubble under commission on air quality management in NCR and the adjoining ordinance 2020
  • Release farmers, farmer leaders, human right activists etc. Arrested for burning paddy stubble in punjab and withdraw all cases against them.
  • Abolish the electricity ordinance 2020
  • Powers to state to decide, decentralization of powers
  • Judiciary intervention

Swaminathan Committee Report 2004 | Indian Farmers Protest 2020-2021 

  • The National Commission on Farmers, chaired by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, submitted five reports through the period December 2004 – October 2006.
  • Following from the first four, the final report focused on causes of famer distresses and the rise in farmer suicides, and recommends addressing them through a holistic national policy for farmers.
  • The findings and recommendations encompass issues of access to resources and social security entitlements.
  • The reports had suggestions for “faster and more inclusive growth” for farmers as was envisaged in the Planning Commission’s Approach to 11th Five Year Plan.
  • The fifth report was the most crucial as it contained suggestions for inclusive growth of farmers and agriculture sector.
  • NCF’s Swaminathan Commission Report aimed at working out a system for food and nutrition security, sustainability in the farming system, enhancing quality and cost competitiveness of farm commodities and also to recommend measures for credit and other marketing related steps.
  • Dr Swaminathan had requested the government to implement the recommendations given in the report so that it could provide minimum support price for grains, safeguard the interest of small farmers and addressing the issue of increasing risk overtaking agriculture as a profession.
  • Recommendations by the committee
    • MSP should be at least 50 percent more than the weighted average cost of production.
    • Formation of National Land Use Advisory Service which would link the land use decision with marketing and ecological meteorological factors on the basis of  season and location. This would help in making the right of use of land in a given time or season.
    • Distribute ceiling-surplus and waste land among farmers: The share of the bottom half of the rural households in the total land ownership was only 3 per cent and the top 10 per cent was as high as 54 per cent. One of the demands of the agitating farmers today is that they should be made the owner of the land they have been tilling for years.
    • To prevent diversion of prime agricultural land and forest to corporate sector for non-agricultural purposes.

The Beginning Of The Protest And Timeline

  • August 2020– small scale farmers along with more than 20 farm unions across india started the protest
  • September 2020– after rise in agitation due to lathi charge in Haryana, farm unions all over india called for BHARAT BANDH to protest on 25 september. railways suspended for 2 months in Punjab.
  • October 2020– farmers decided to march to delhi to pressure the central government, because respective state governments were not supporting them.
  • November 2020– DILLI CHALO campaign was started on 25 november. farmers were faced by police at the borders of the city. it was a non-violent campaign and no harm was done to public. a mature movement
    • Suppression by the government
    • police employed the use of water cannons, tear gas, barricades, dug up roads, sand barriers etc which lead to 3 farmer casualties.
    • Home minister Amit Shah offers to hold talks with the farmers as soon as they vacate Delhi borders and move to the designated protest site in Burari. Rejecting his offer, the protesting farmers demand to hold the protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.
  • December 2020– since November, approximately 200 to 300 thousand farmers joined hands against the new farm laws and blocked the delhi border
    • The Modi government holds the first round of talks with leaders of 35 farm unions. The meeting remains inconclusive.
    • Bharatiya Kisan Union, one of the farmer bodies, moves the supreme court against the three farm laws on 11 december
  • January 2021- A fresh meeting between the farmers and the government ends without a solution as the union leaders continue to press for the withdrawal of the three farm laws.
    • The supreme court puts on hold the implementation of the three farm laws and sets up a committee to evaluate any changes to the laws. The committee is given a two-month deadline. In a fresh round of talks, the Modi government proposes to suspend the three farm laws for one-and-half years and set up a joint committee to discuss the legislation. The farmers, however, reject the proposal and continue their demand for a complete rollback of the laws.
    • The Delhi police allows farmers to hold a tractor rally in the national capital to mark the completion of two months of their protest. The permission is limited to a fixed route through the city.
    • Chaos unfolds when a group of farmers divert from the permitted route. In an attempt to stop the farmers, the police use tear gas but the situation turns violent after some farmers allegedly pelt stones at them. Protesting farmers vandalise a bus and police vehicles, and break the barricades at Delhi’s ITO.
    • The leaders of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an amalgam of the protesting farm unions, disassociates itself from the violence and claims “anti-social elements” infiltrated the rally.
    • SKM downplays the withdrawal of the support from the two unions, stating that these organisations were not part of the umbrella body and declares that the protest against the three contentious farm laws would continue till they are repealed.

Role Of State Government | Indian Farmers Protest 2020-2021 

  • If India has to move away from procurement-based support, at present restricted to certain crops only, a more attractive income support scheme has to be conceived. However, it has to be coupled with much higher investment, both public and private, in agri-infrastructure. The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) incentivised the states, which increased their expenditure on agriculture. The Centre’s assistance for such states should be higher.
  • Several Decentralised Procurement (DCP) states like Odisha and Chhattisgarh claim that they incur losses in procurement operations and these are not fully reimbursed by the Centre. However, precise data on losses incurred by them is not in the public domain.

Role Of Center Government In Handling The Protests

  • There is a gross communication failure on the part of the central government to explain to farmers what these laws are, and how they are intended to benefit them.
  • The apprehension about MSP and procurement going away comes from Acts being linked to some previous policy documents like the Shanta Kumar Committee report and the CACP reports suggesting reduced procurement and an end to open-ended procurement from states like Punjab to cut down costs of FCI.
  • It is feared that FCI itself may start procuring directly from the new trade area to cut down buying costs like market fees and arhtiya commission.
  • It is more about the changes in the “social contract” between the state’s farmers and the Union government that is the root cause of this apprehension.

Plea Against Farmers’ Agitation

  • A petition was filed by law student Rishabh Sharma on 11 January 2021 seeking immediate removal of farmers from Delhi borders
  • According to the petition, the commuters are facing hardships due to blockades. Emergency and medical services have been severely impacted due to the farmers’ agitation.
  • The petition further stated that the farmers should be shifted to a fixed place allotted by the Government and claimed that farmers were allowed to protest peacefully at Nirankari ground in Burari but they refused to accept the offer and are still blocking the borders.
  • In January 2021, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the three Farm Acts 2020 and constituted a four-member committee to make recommendations on the same.
  • A bench headed by Chief Justice of India S. A. Bobde gave the panel two months time to submit its report for a ‘fair, equitable and just solution’.
  • Members of the Committee
    • Bhupinder Singh Mann, the national president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union and All India Kisan Coordination Committee. (disassociated himself from the SC formed panel).
    • Parmod Kumar Joshi, an agricultural economist who is also the Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute.
    • Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices.
    • Anil Ghanwat, the chief of Shetkari Sanghatana.
  • On 19 January 2021, the farmers’ unions have refused to attend the first meeting of the SC appointed committee to resolve the ongoing agitation over the contentious Farm Acts 2020, sticking to their demands of repealing the farm laws.

Dedicated Portal for farmers

  • SC appointed panel for deliberations on the three contentious Farm Acts 2020 has notified a dedicated portal to get views of farmers individually. The panel has also decided to hear at least 20 organizations on the first day of consultations, i.e., 21 January 2021.

Way Forward | Indian Farmers Protest 2020-2021 

  • Farmers protest in India is an indication of larger complex issue. Pressure groups play a vital role in generating awareness and reaching a consensus and sustainable solutions to farmer’s problems.
  • NITI Aayog has suggested that all subsidies for agriculture, including fertilizer, electricity, crop insurance, irrigation and interest subvention be replaced by income transfer which will give them the freedom to choose the best crop. Also, it will help in lifting farmers out of poverty and prevent misuse of resources and leakages in the system. However first states have to be taken on board along with land records that will identify the beneficiaries. It has also suggested that supplementing the farm income is the best way forward.
  • Loan waivers benefit only a small fraction of farmers thus Ministry of Agriculture must link allocations to states to reform measures undertaken by them in the farm sector. This will generate accountability and responsibility on part of states.

 

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