Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances

As BJP faces political upheaval over the matter, here’s what the ordinances propose and why farmers are against it.

Updated
India
7 min read
 Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leaders and farmers stage a protest against the central government policies on the first day of the Parliament session, at Delhi-UP border, Monday, 14 September 2020.
i

The Lok Sabha on Thursday, 17 September, passed two contentious agriculture Bills, despite strong opposition, being termed an "anti-farmer" move by BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal, and widespread protests by farmers in various states over the issue.

Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the Akali Dal resigned from the Narendra Modi government, hours ahead of the voting in the lower House on the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 as well as the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.

Thousands of farmers in Punjab, Haryana and several other states have been staging protests since the government on 14 September introduced these Bills in the Lok Sabha, a movement which PM Modi on Friday, 18 September, said was being instigated by the Opposition by misleading the farmers.

Here’s what the ordinances propose and why the farmers are protesting against it.

Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances

  1. 1. What Do the Three Ordinances Say?

    1. The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance

    Under this ordinance, the farmer can sell his finished crops to any merchant anywhere. There will be no compulsion to sell in APMC mandi of their own specific area. The government is putting this forward as part of “one nation, one market.”

    2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services

    Under this ordinance, the farmer broadly signs a contract to sell the crops on the basis of the parameters set by his crop standards. It is believed that this may reduce the risk of the farmer.

    3. Amendment in Essential Commodities Act 1955

    The moneylenders and businessmen used to earlier buy crops at affordable rates and store them in large numbers, and engage in black marketing. The government enacted the Essential Commodities Act in 1955 to curb black marketing. But now, under the new amendment, agricultural products like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils and potatoes have been removed from it.

    The condition, however, has been kept that the ordinance will not be applicable in the event of a national disaster or emergency.

    Rakesh Tikait, the national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, told The Quint that his main concern was with regard to MSP system tampering.

    Their demand, he said, is that 'the government should enact laws on the support price. This can stop excessive exploitation of farmers by middlemen and companies, and this step will increase the income of farmers. Crop purchases below the support price should be classified as a crime.’

    Expand
  2. 2. Why Are Farmers Protesting Against the Ordinances?

    Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leaders and farmers stage a protest against the central government policies on the first day of the Parliament session, at Delhi-UP border, Monday, 14 September, 2020.
    Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leaders and farmers stage a protest against the central government policies on the first day of the Parliament session, at Delhi-UP border, Monday, 14 September, 2020.
    (Photo: PTI)

    Farmers across the country are opposing the ordinances introduced by the central government on 5 June. The government, on its part, is projecting these ordinances as 'one nation, one market', a major step towards agricultural reform.

    The Indian Farmers Union, a farmers' organisation, believes:

    “Due to these laws, farmers are in danger of becoming captive to companies. Law control, free marketing, storage, import-export, is not in the interest of farmers. The farmers of this country are also suffering because of the policies of World Trade Organisation. During the drought in Bengal, in 1943-44, 40 lakh people died of hunger due to hoarding of food grains by the East India Company.”   
    Bharatiya Kisan Union   
    Expand
  3. 3. Why Are Some Farmers Supporting the Ordinances?

    Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances
    (Photo: PTI)

    It is not like all farmer organisations are united in protest against these ordinances. Maharashtra's farmer leader and two-time MP, Raju Shetty, has positive things to say about the ordinance.

    Shetty is of the opinion that it would be good if processing companies, retailing companies and exporters invest in food preservation. Presently, farmers have to incur the cost of carrying their goods to the mandi. According to Shetty, after the new system, these expenses will also be saved.

    Farmers' organisations who are opposing it say that the ordinance has been brought about without consultation with those for whom the laws have been made, ie the farmers. Also, the haste with which the ordinances have been brought in, amid the coronavirus crisis, has broken the trust between the government and farmers.

    Expand
  4. 4. How Does This Affect Wholesale Buyers?

    Those working as wholesale buyers in mandis and for the state government have also been protesting. There are 28 thousand wholesale buyers who do the weighing, filling, cleaning, loading, unloading and bidding of finished crops, in Punjab alone. These wholesale buyers also get commission in this.

    It is believed that the new system coming through the ordinance will affect the wholesale buyers’ fixed earnings. States also earn a significant amount from the duty in these mandis. So, in this way, the states will suffer tax loss.

    Expand
  5. 5. What the Government Has to Say

    Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar wrote a letter to Sukhbir Singh Badal about the Farmer Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, saying that it will only allow buying and selling of crops outside the area of the APMC mandi.

    He also asserted that this will forge an alternative marketing channel for farmers. Along with this, APMC mandis will also continue to work.

    Now, the farmers will have the option to sell their crops wherever they want, stated Tomar. This will also mean that APMC will also get competition to improve its efficiency, according to Tomar.

    Expand
  6. 6. ‘Open Market Policy Not Made for India’: What Experts Say

    Agriculture expert Devinder Sharma said, “In the agricultural sector, we are working on the open market policy. We are trying to imitate America and Europe. In the US, the open market policy in the agriculture sector has failed miserably. As of today, in the US, the open market has been going on for the last six or seven decades. Western countries are also facing crisis in agriculture. Government help alone is saving the farmers.”

    Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances
    “When the policy of open market could not work in American agriculture, how will it work in India? The policy of open market is not made for the Indian agricultural system.”
    Devinder Sharma  
    Expand
  7. 7. Protesting Farmers Not Allowed to Enter Delhi

    Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances

    The farmers who set out to protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar were stopped on 14 September. Farmers from Kurukshetra and Karnal were stopped at Narela police station. Those coming from Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar Shyamali were stopped at UP gate.

    On 10 September, Haryana’s Kurukshetra saw a massive farmers’ protest against the three new agriculture ordinances, passed on 5 June by the Government of India. The farmers, in protest, blocked the National Highway at Pipli in Kurukshetra.

    Bharatiya Kisan Union, along with other farmer organisations, came out to protest against the ordinances. They were, however, subsequently lathi-charged by the police. Images of the cops thrashing the protesting farmers have since flooded social media.

    Those from Bijnor and Uttarakhand were stopped at UP gate, as well. But, soon after, workers of Bharatiya Kisan Union started protesting at UP Gate itself by sitting down on the roads and shouting slogans.

    (This piece has been published with inputs from Quint Hindi. Read the original story here.)

    Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

    The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

    Expand

What Do the Three Ordinances Say?

1. The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance

Under this ordinance, the farmer can sell his finished crops to any merchant anywhere. There will be no compulsion to sell in APMC mandi of their own specific area. The government is putting this forward as part of “one nation, one market.”

2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services

Under this ordinance, the farmer broadly signs a contract to sell the crops on the basis of the parameters set by his crop standards. It is believed that this may reduce the risk of the farmer.

3. Amendment in Essential Commodities Act 1955

The moneylenders and businessmen used to earlier buy crops at affordable rates and store them in large numbers, and engage in black marketing. The government enacted the Essential Commodities Act in 1955 to curb black marketing. But now, under the new amendment, agricultural products like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils and potatoes have been removed from it.

The condition, however, has been kept that the ordinance will not be applicable in the event of a national disaster or emergency.

Rakesh Tikait, the national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, told The Quint that his main concern was with regard to MSP system tampering.

Their demand, he said, is that 'the government should enact laws on the support price. This can stop excessive exploitation of farmers by middlemen and companies, and this step will increase the income of farmers. Crop purchases below the support price should be classified as a crime.’

Why Are Farmers Protesting Against the Ordinances?

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leaders and farmers stage a protest against the central government policies on the first day of the Parliament session, at Delhi-UP border, Monday, 14 September, 2020.
Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leaders and farmers stage a protest against the central government policies on the first day of the Parliament session, at Delhi-UP border, Monday, 14 September, 2020.
(Photo: PTI)

Farmers across the country are opposing the ordinances introduced by the central government on 5 June. The government, on its part, is projecting these ordinances as 'one nation, one market', a major step towards agricultural reform.

The Indian Farmers Union, a farmers' organisation, believes:

“Due to these laws, farmers are in danger of becoming captive to companies. Law control, free marketing, storage, import-export, is not in the interest of farmers. The farmers of this country are also suffering because of the policies of World Trade Organisation. During the drought in Bengal, in 1943-44, 40 lakh people died of hunger due to hoarding of food grains by the East India Company.”   
Bharatiya Kisan Union   

According to a report in The Indian Express, there are two reasons why farmers are protesting.

The first reason is that farmers who depend on APMC's monopoly are angry with these ordinances. According to the IE report, after the introduction of this new system, the process of procurement by government at MSP will end.

However, there has been no mention, either directly or indirectly, in the ordinance that after this new system, MSP-based government procurement will be abolished.

Further, farmer leaders believe that the intention behind bringing in this ordinance is for the recommendations of Shanta Kumar’s High Level Committee be implemented.

The committee submitted its report in 2015 and said that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) should give the responsibility of food preservation to the governments of Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. It is being said that the Centre is trying to wash its hands off purchase and storage.

Why Are Some Farmers Supporting the Ordinances?

Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances
(Photo: PTI)

It is not like all farmer organisations are united in protest against these ordinances. Maharashtra's farmer leader and two-time MP, Raju Shetty, has positive things to say about the ordinance.

Shetty is of the opinion that it would be good if processing companies, retailing companies and exporters invest in food preservation. Presently, farmers have to incur the cost of carrying their goods to the mandi. According to Shetty, after the new system, these expenses will also be saved.

Farmers' organisations who are opposing it say that the ordinance has been brought about without consultation with those for whom the laws have been made, ie the farmers. Also, the haste with which the ordinances have been brought in, amid the coronavirus crisis, has broken the trust between the government and farmers.

How Does This Affect Wholesale Buyers?

Those working as wholesale buyers in mandis and for the state government have also been protesting. There are 28 thousand wholesale buyers who do the weighing, filling, cleaning, loading, unloading and bidding of finished crops, in Punjab alone. These wholesale buyers also get commission in this.

It is believed that the new system coming through the ordinance will affect the wholesale buyers’ fixed earnings. States also earn a significant amount from the duty in these mandis. So, in this way, the states will suffer tax loss.

What the Government Has to Say

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar wrote a letter to Sukhbir Singh Badal about the Farmer Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, saying that it will only allow buying and selling of crops outside the area of the APMC mandi.

He also asserted that this will forge an alternative marketing channel for farmers. Along with this, APMC mandis will also continue to work.

Now, the farmers will have the option to sell their crops wherever they want, stated Tomar. This will also mean that APMC will also get competition to improve its efficiency, according to Tomar.

‘Open Market Policy Not Made for India’: What Experts Say

Agriculture expert Devinder Sharma said, “In the agricultural sector, we are working on the open market policy. We are trying to imitate America and Europe. In the US, the open market policy in the agriculture sector has failed miserably. As of today, in the US, the open market has been going on for the last six or seven decades. Western countries are also facing crisis in agriculture. Government help alone is saving the farmers.”

Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances
“When the policy of open market could not work in American agriculture, how will it work in India? The policy of open market is not made for the Indian agricultural system.”
Devinder Sharma  

Sharma further asked: "The government is saying that APMC will have a separate market, and there will be a separate market outside. Therefore, it becomes 'one nation, two markets’. Why is the government trying to say ‘one nation, one market then’?”

Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances

“About 86 percent farmers in India have two hectare land. If they cannot go anywhere else and sell their crops, then who is the policy really for? This ordinance by the government, to end the mandis of the country. When the mandis are over, the MSP will also end. For the last 8-9 years, efforts are being made to abolish the MSP. The government has made hoarding legal by removing storage limits. Now the government will not know who has stored how much,” he added.

Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances

Protesting Farmers Not Allowed to Enter Delhi

Here’s Why Farmers Are Protesting the 3 New Agriculture Ordinances

The farmers who set out to protest at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar were stopped on 14 September. Farmers from Kurukshetra and Karnal were stopped at Narela police station. Those coming from Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar Shyamali were stopped at UP gate.

On 10 September, Haryana’s Kurukshetra saw a massive farmers’ protest against the three new agriculture ordinances, passed on 5 June by the Government of India. The farmers, in protest, blocked the National Highway at Pipli in Kurukshetra.

Bharatiya Kisan Union, along with other farmer organisations, came out to protest against the ordinances. They were, however, subsequently lathi-charged by the police. Images of the cops thrashing the protesting farmers have since flooded social media.

Those from Bijnor and Uttarakhand were stopped at UP gate, as well. But, soon after, workers of Bharatiya Kisan Union started protesting at UP Gate itself by sitting down on the roads and shouting slogans.

(This piece has been published with inputs from Quint Hindi. Read the original story here.)

Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

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