Several farmers in Karnataka on Wednesday protested against the proposed amendments to the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act by the Centre. The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sanga, association of farmers in the state submitted memorandums to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and deputy commissioners of various districts.
"The government is diluting the Act to favour multi-national companies and corporates. APMC has been the center of farmers' trade and ensuring fair price even in adverse times, regulating price ensuring uniformity for all. With the ordinance, none of this would be possible. Instead private markets would flourish with nobody to regulate price. Who would assure the farmers that they will get the MSP?" Kodihalli Chandrashekar, president, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha told CNN-News18.
"The government is trying to destroy the democratic system in place," he added.
The protest comes in the background of government's plan to amend the Act through an ordinance following a letter from the Centre directing the same.
On May 5, the Ministry of Agriculture wrote to the state government asking to adopt the Model Agriculture Produce and Livestock Marketing (Facilities and Promotion) Act 2017 with nine reforms including separation of power and function of the Director, Marketing and MD, Mandi Board, declaring warehouses and cold storages as market sub-yard, deregulating fruits and vegetables, private market, direct marketing and adhoc wholesale buying, e-trading and unified license across the state and single point levy of market fee.
"Your state has already adopted eight reforms out of nine essential areas of reforms as provided in Model APLM Act 2017. However, major reforms such limiting regulation of APMC to within physical premise of Mandi are yet to be carried out by your state. In this regard, in the last Governing Council meeting of NITI Aayog, Hon'ble Prime Minister of India had emphasized on adoption of Model APLM Act 2017 by the States. In the present challenging time due to COVID-19, there is utmost need to facilitate farmers in all possible ways to make market access at the door step by limiting the market regulations within the physical boundaries of the mandis. I would therefore request that your State should consider adopting the same urgently through the route of Ordnance in the interest of the farmers and producers to enable them to get better market access for their produce at this juncture for better remunerative prices," read the letter addressed to Additional Chief Secretary,Co-operation.
"Farmers bring their agricultural produce to the APMC yard (mandi), where they auction their produce. Buyers cannot exploit the farmer or force them to sell for lower price as all farmers will be here selling around the same price. Farmers know the MSP through APMC which also regulates the price, quantity and quality thereby ensuring there is a fair deal for the farmers which will be lost in the absence of APMC," Chandrashekar said.
Opposition leader Siddaramaiah opposed the move on Tuesday. In a series of tweets, he criticised the state and central government saying, "The direction by @AgriGoI on 5th May dictating @CMofKarnataka to bring in ordinance to amend APMC act is against the interests of farmers. This direction to a state, in a federal structure like us, is against the principles of democracy."
The reason behind the ordinance to amend APMC act, according to @AgriGoI, is to increase the profit for farmers but it is not true.— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) May 12, 2020
The main motive is to enable private multinational companies to completely replace APMCs.
"The ordinance to amend APMC act will take away the regulatory authority of APMCs over procurement of agriculture produce by private entities. This will allow private companies to dictate the supply and demand which threatens food security & guaranteed price for farmers," Siddaramaiah alleged.
"Only 6% farmers in India have access to APMCs, while rest 94% do not have. If government really wants to help farmers, they can allow private entities to open market but the regulatory authority of those markets should remain with APMCs," he said.
The Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry too opposed the move stating that they would protest starting May 18 if the government does not revoke the decision.
"We condemn this decision taken by the government without consulting the stakeholders of APMC. 177 APMC markets will stop its functioning and protest against this move if the government goes ahead with this decision," said CR Janardhana, president FKCCI, in a statement.