‘Sell-Out’ Vs ‘Enabling’: An Expert Face-Off on the Farm Bills

Policy Expert Devinder Sharma and Managing Editor of Financial Express Sunil Jain weigh in pros & cons of farm bills

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Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

A nationwide protest by farmers took place against the contentious farm bills on 25 September, days after they were passed in Parliament amid chaos, and with allegations of a division vote being denied to Opposition parties, despite requests. In several parts of the country, farmers continue to protest again the bills.

Amid the raging nationwide protests by farmers over the three farm bills passed in the Parliament, Food and Agriculture Policy Expert Devinder Sharma and Managing Editor of Financial Express Sunil Jain weigh in the pros and cons of the bills

MSPs - TO GIVE OR NOT TO GIVE

With the new farm bills being passed, will there be MSPs for crops, or will farmers be left at the mercy of big corporates — that's the primary apprehension of farmers who are out on the streets in the middle of the pandemic.

“Farmers feel threatened, that farm bills would end APMC, MSPs’. Corporatisations of agriculture will adversely impact farmers. This fear has brought farmers to the streets in this huge scale in Haryana and Punjab. We need a fourth farm bill. We need a law that ensures no trading on 23 crops below MSP — that will be real freedom of farmers.”
Devinder Sharma, Food & Agriculture Policy Expert
“MSPs are applicable to only 5-6% of farmers. Farmers are protesting in only a few states over MSP since MSPs don’t concern Indian farmers much. MSPs are mostly applicable to only a couple of crops — rice and wheat. Protests are being held in Punjab because Punjab government gets taxes worth Rs 3.5–4 thousand crores.”
Sunil Jain, Managing Editor, Financial Express

OPEN MARKET VS HIGH SUBSIDIES

With Minimum Support Price not finding a mention in any of the bills, farmers from Punjab and Haryana and other states have been demanding the government to legalise MSP system, to safeguard them from exploitations by private players.

“Open markets have failed in USA and Europe. Since 1960, income of farmers in the USA is on a steep decline. Total amount of bankruptcy of farmers in the USA is $425 billion. Rate of suicide in rural USA is 45% higher than that in urban USA. Similar crisis in Europe too.”
Devinder Sharma, Food & Agriculture Policy Expert
“FCI spends close to Rs 2.5 lakh crores in MSP operations already. India cannot afford to spend Rs 50 lakh crore on MSPs in a year. Indian policies have always been anti-farmer — more subsidies, less investments.”
Sunil Jain, Managing Editor, Financial Express

ONE COUNTRY, ONE MARKET VS ONE COUNTRY, TWO MARKETS

Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling the passage of the bills a “historic moment” for India’s agricultural sector, various farmers’ organisations had called for a complete shutdown on Friday against the government’s ‘anti-farmer’ policies.

“We have created one country, two markets. In Punjab, farmers have to pay 6% tax in APMC markets. Farmers have demanded that this tax be writen off, or they’ll stop buying from APMC markets. There will an eventual death of APMC markets. MSP is the hurdle to price discovery’
Devinder Sharma, Food & Agriculture Policy Expert
“No point of having two markets. Government will have to come up with an alternate market. The farm bills have enabling features. They can take the country forward.”
Sunil Jain, Managing Editor, Financial Express

The farmers are opposing the Bills passed by the government as the Upper House gave the nod to the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.

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