For the last two months, growers from Punjab and other Indian states have been protesting against the new federal farm laws. A recent meeting between Union ministers and representatives of farm unions failed to get anywhere. Growers claim that the federal government has not addressed their concerns over the three laws: Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act; Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
Here are some of the bullets from the negotiations:
If the farmers will sell their produce outside the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandis, the purchasers will buy the produce at their own rates and not at the MSP. There is no provision in the laws that nobody can purchase the produce at a price below the MSP.
The government says that the farmers will not have to pay the market fees while selling their produce outside the APMC mandi. The sellers are only paying unloading and cleaning charges in the mandi. Market charges in Punjab are at present 8.5% — 3% market fee, 3% rural development fund and 2.5% commission for the licensed arhtiya. All charges are being paid by the procurement agency.
To make these laws farmer-friendly, the following suggestions may be considered after thorough discussions with all stakeholders:
There can be a written clause that no one can purchase the farmer’s produce at a price below the MSP. Purchase below the MSP should be punishable.
The government can provide infrastructure like cold storage and warehouse facility to the farmers at a nominal rate if they want to store their produce. The government should provide credit facility to the farmers against the stored produce to avoid distress sale.
In case of a dispute with the trading company, the farmers should have the option of availing of free judiciary services from the government’s lawyers and approaching the court if not satisfied with the SDM’s decision regarding the dispute.
The farmers should be given a written assurance by the contracting party that the whole produce will be purchased and it can be made mandatory for the party to provide assistance to the farmer throughout the crop season for ensuring quality produce.