The farmers’ union Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), which is an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has suggested that the farm bills passed by the Lok Sabha this week must be sent to the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture headed by the BJP’s PC Gaddigoudar for wider consultation and then made into law, as the farmer is not visible in them. Or, the BKS says, the government must re-imagine the ‘one nation, one market’ policy and reintroduce it for the benefit of small farmers.
The organisation had also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, demanding pro-farmer provisions that do not benefit the big firms and corporates.
On Thursday, the Lok Sabha passed two agriculture-related Bills – Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, by voice vote. On Tuesday, the House passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which seeks to deregulate food items, including cereals, pulses and onions.
With the Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill the government seems to have pushed for a barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade of primary agricultural commodities. Under the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, there will be a national framework on farming, enabling contract farming, involving big agribusiness firms, exporters, etc. Also, the bill allows farm trade outside tax-free markets, opens up APMCs to competition and removes existing barriers.
Badrinarayan Chaudhary, general secretary of BKS, told News18.com, “There was an unusual hurry to pass the bills in this session, in which the farmer is invisible. We could have waited till December and deliberated over it. I suggest that the concerned bills be sent to the standing committee for wider consultations and our demands should be met for the safety and prosperity of the farmer.”
He reiterated the fears of the farmers mentioned in the letter sent to the Prime Minister and agriculture minister on August 19, 2020. “The government only talks about the minimum support prices, and it should ensure this in the bill. The law should speak on the provision of MSP.”
Chaudhary is upset that the past Budget announcement of setting up mandis has not seen the light of day. “The idea of ‘one nation, one market’ should be reintroduced in which the small farmers benefit. The opening of the market puts the small farmers at a loss. The bill ignores the small farmers who traded in mandis. The Budget promises regarding the same have not been realised yet,” he said.
For the protection of the farmers, the BKS demands “krishi nyalalaya” and “the traders’ registration”. The measures would ensure that the small farmers are not cheated, according to Kelkar.
The government seeks to benefit the big corporates, in his opinion. In the August letter, the BKS had pointed out that “instead of the real farmers, the corporate companies are coming across as farmers”, and had asked for the rationalisation of the bills.
After the Lok Sabha passed the contentious agriculture bills, the BJP’s oldest ally Shiromani Akali Dal termed it an “anti-farmer” move, even as protests broke out in Punjab and Haryana. A protesting farmer in Punjab on Friday allegedly tried to end his life by consuming poisonous substances.