Justifying The Unjustified Demands Of Farmers
Author : Aparna Tripathi
*Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author are personal. The Woke Lawyer or any of its subsidiaries have no say / responsibility in the same and the author is solely responsible for his/her opinion.
Delhi has been, time and again, used as a city for protests. This time farmers have chosen this destination to portray their dissent over the ‘Farmers’ bills’. Farmers are against the three bills the Central Government has introduced. According to the government, the bills are set in motion for the benefit of the farmers whereas farmers have everything contrary to say. Before jumping on to what farmers are saying, let us have a look of what the ‘Farmers’ Bills’ are.
Overview of Farmers’ Bills
Farmers’ bills are a package extended by the Central Government to the Indian farmers which allegedly will facilitate in growth of farmers. The package introduces the following Acts:
Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act: The Act aims to provide for a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The Act lays down the foundations and regulations for contract farming.
Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act: This Act aims to provide for the creation of an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers’ produce which facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels. It seeks to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-State and intra-State trade and commerce of farmers’ produce outside the physical premises of markets or deemed markets notified under various State agricultural produce market legislations. The Act provides a facilitative framework for electronic trading and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act: This amendment empowers the Central Government to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances (such as war and famine). Stock limits may be imposed on agricultural produce only if there is a steep price rise.
Even after several days of the protest and various rounds of the talks with the government, farmers are sticking to their stance. The farmers of the nation are adamant on getting their following points, accepted by the government, which they submitted to the Government in a ‘Demand Charter’, while asserting their demand of rolling off the new law:
Minimum Support Price (MSP) to be declared a legal right along with implementing the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee on MSP.
Repealing commission on Air Quality management in National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas Ordinance, 2020 thereby decriminalising the stubble burning.
Withdrawal of Electricity Ordinance, 2020 and doing away with electricity bills of farmers for 2020.
Determination of fuel price at international rate and no taxes on fuel should be collected, thereby asking to slash diesel prices for agriculture purposes by 50%.
Unconditional release of pro-democracy individuals and anti-CAA activists.
Critical Analysis of the demands
The demand of MSP to be declared as a legal right seems flawed to me. Not just farmers want it to be a legal right, but they want that if a person buys crops at a price lower than the MSP, (s)he must be punished for the same. Now, just imagine a situation where the crop is of a low standard and that is made to be purchased at a price higher than what it deserves. This would eventually be committing a wrong against the purchaser of such produce. Also, this particular demand can lead to a negative impact on farmers as well. For instance, if the purchasers unite and do not buy the farmer’s produce at all on MSP (which they might think is high and unjustified), the whole produce would go waste and the farmer will get nothing for it. As for the demand for implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee, out of 201 recommendations, 200 recommendations have been implemented by the Central Government which includes a 50% hike in MSP.
The second demand of farmers on repealing the commission set up on Air Quality management in National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas Ordinance seems harmful to humans at large, irrespective of their status, their ideology and also applies to people demanding the same. The author fails to understand that when the government is open to buy what generally is considered by farmers as a waste, why not grab the opportunity? Earlier since no revenue could be generated, all the efforts of cutting stubble were a useless exercise but now since the farmers will be getting a price for this, there seems no need for such a dissenting opinion from them. Rather it would help them earn and keep the air of the nation clean for themselves and for the generations to come.
While the demand of not paying electricity bill for this year which is hit hard by pandemic seems to be reasonable to some extent, the demand of withdrawing of the Electricity Ordinance, 2020 seems totally illegitimate. If any of the provision(s) of the Ordinance seems somewhat detrimental to farmers’ rights, they may ask for omission of that particular provision instead of asking to withdraw the whole ordinance without giving any proper reasoning.
There is a diesel subsidy mechanism in place for farmers under diesel subsidy scheme for protective irrigation of crops for drought hit areas. But this scheme is not available for every farmer. The farmers put forth this demand that the diesel for agricultural purposes should be subsidized to 50% and the determination of the rate of diesel should be based on the international crude oil price. Although the scheme would irrefutably be beneficial for farmers, it might be tough to be implemented.
When the price of diesel would be determined on international rates, the Central and the State Governments would be required to abolish the tax imposed on the product which seems to be a far cry. Neither State Governments nor the Central Government would be willing to let go from their hands, one of the biggest revenue generating tools.
Farmers also demand a 50% subsidy on diesel for agricultural processes but ensuring that the diesel is just being used for agricultural purposes is a difficult job. Subsidizing the diesel would lead to misuse of this subsidy which eventually would mean loss to the government treasuries.
Out of all the demands made by the farmers, this one seems to be totally unrelated to farmers. It goes beyond the understanding that how and why farmers are concerned about the people who were arrested. The category of persons who are being demanded to be released does not belong to any farmers’ group, union or association. Those people were not involved with farmers in any way. Hence, this demand appears totally untenable.
Farmers are mostly tensed about two things – Abolition of MSP and abolition of Mandi system whereas no bill has any provision related to abolition of any of the two things. The farmers are unaware what the bill contains for them and the Government has failed miserably to communicate the same. The events which happened during the last few days casts a duty upon the government to make sure to properly communicate their policies to the common man and especially to those who are going to be affected by it.