New Delhi: After several weeks of protests against the hastily passed agriculture laws, the Centre on Wednesday came up with a set of draft proposals, diluting some provisions of the laws. However, some farmer union leaders have expressed utter disappointment with the proposed amendments and decided to continue their agitation over the coming days.
Although the Centre has promised to give a written assurance to farmers on the minimum support price (MSP) regime, farmer union leaders have questioned the current status of this system where some farmers get paid even below the MSP.
The Centre’s farm laws had instilled fear among the farmers that the Agricultural Produce Market Committee mandis would be weakened and they will be stuck in a vicious circle of selling crops to private sellers or big corporate players. The Centre said the laws will ensure that new buyers enter the market and promote competition, which will help the farmers earn more money. Farmer unions did not agree with this narrative.
The Centre’s new proposal said that state governments can impose taxes/fees in private trade areas to maintain parity with regulated APMC mandis.
Apart from this, the Centre addressed various other issues including registration of merchants – where anyone with a PAN card can buy crops from farmers. The government proposed that state governments will be authorised to frame rules to register private traders – as per local conditions – in the favour of farmers.
On the issue of farmers not getting the right to appeal in civil courts for dispute resolution, the government said it is open to making an amendment to provide for an appeal in civil courts. Currently, the dispute resolution is at SDM level.
On fears that big corporates will take over farmlands, the government said it has already been made clear in the laws, but still, for clarity’s sake, it can be written that no buyer can take loans against farmland nor any such condition will be made to farmers.
On attaching farmland under contract farming, the government said the existing provision is clear but still it can be clarified further if required.
On fear about the scrapping of the MSP regime and shifting of trade to private players, the government said it is ready to give a written assurance that the existing MSP will continue.
On demands to scrap the proposed Electricity Amendment bill 2020, the government said there won’t be any change in the existing system of electricity bill payment for farmers.
On farmers’ demand to scrap the Air Quality Management of NCR Ordinance 2020, under which there is the provision of penalty for stubble burning, the government said it is ready to find an appropriate solution.
After the passage of the farm laws, farmer unions and experts had reported their concerns that small and marginal farmers – a section that constitutes 85% of agrarian landholdings – are likely to be worst hit and that they will have the lowest bargaining power and the highest level of uncertainty.
Responding to the proposals, Kavita Kuruganthi of the All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) issued a statement saying that the proposed amendments are an “insult” to farmers. “Farmers strongly reject the proposals from the government. They call it an insult to the farmers of the country.”
(With PTI inputs)