Farm Reforms 2020 – Empowering Farmers in India
Farm Reforms in India – What are they? Why do we need them? Who are opposing them and why it is important to expose them?
Why reforms are badly needed in the agricultural sector in India?
Agricultural plays a vital role in the Indian economy. It not only contributes to 17% of the total GDP but also provides employment close to 60% of India’s population. During last 3-4 decades prior to year 2014, we’ve have heard so many empty promises and loud talks about the welfare of farmers but have hardly seen anything getting done on the ground. Every day more than 30 farmers commit suicide due to financial crisis. There exist a wide-ranging disparity in the income between farming and non-farming sector. Our ‘अन्नदाता’ (farmer) has remained in destitution while feeding everyone else’s stomach.
Farmers do not have access to free and open markets in India, they are often exploited by the middlemen (arthiyas), lack of adequate infrastructure does not allow proper storage facility, pre and post-harvest losses remain very high, farmers are not included higher up in the supply chain system and there is no proper credit facility available to them. If there is one sector that needs structural reforms the most, undoubtedly it is the farming sector.
Background Information – what current central government has done for farmers?
Talking about the welfare of farmers and actually doing something for them are two entirely different things. One needs to have an appetite to understand the pain and agony suffered by the farmers in day to day life and should carry genuine intentions to do something for their betterment. How important a particular sector for any government is, can easily be observed from the budget it sets aside for a given sector. After coming to power, Modi government has doubled the allocation of budget to the agricultural sector. It has brought in many innovative and highly effective policy changes to increase the income of farmers and provide them better facilities. These measures prove beyond any doubt the commitment and sincerity that the government has shown towards the betterment of farmers in the last six years. Some of the pro-farmer initiatives taken after 2014 are explained below to give readers a background information on what is happening in this area before we touch on the Farm Reforms of 2020.
1. Soil Health Card
Soil health cards provide farmers the nutrient status of their soil and its composition. It helps them decide what to grow, dosage of fertilisers and other changes needed to obtain maximum throughput. Hundreds of labs have been set up across the country that feed scientific data to the farmers. More than 22 crore farmers are getting benefits out of these soil health cards.
2. Easy Availability of Fertilisers
It was not a very long ago when just to get urea (fertiliser) farmers had to wait in long queues for days and sometimes get roughed up by the police in case of stampedes. There was a permanent shortage of fertilisers in the market because farmers’ share of urea was redirected to chemical factories by dishonest government employees. To resolve this issue, Modi government started Neem coating of urea that made it unsuitable for non-farming use. Today farmers can easily get urea anywhere in the country without any issue.
3. Promotion of Organic Farming
“Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana” was started in 2015-16 to promote organic farming to increase farmers’ income. Support system has been established for procuring inputs and certification. As a benefit of it, additional 6.19 lakh hectares land is getting used for organic farming bringing better opportunities to 15.50 lakh farmers.
4. Kisan Credit Cards
Lack of availability of credit was a major hindrance to the progress of farmers. Poor farmers were forced to avail debt at unfair interest rates from private moneylenders. This puts them in a vicious cycle of debt, where lack of sufficient capital to make agriculture profitable leads to even more debt. To help farmers, Modi government has put institutionalised credit facility in place using Kisan Credit Cards. A record amount of rupees 15 lakh crore has been set as the farm credit target for the year 2020-21. Institutional credit to farmers has increased from Rs 7.3 lakh crore in 2013-14 to Rs 13.73 lakh crore in 2019-20, saving more farmers from clutches of private moneylenders.
5. PM Krishi Sinchai Yojana
Water is a precious resource which must be used carefully and sustainably. ‘Per Drop More Crop’ component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana enabling precision micro irrigation techniques i.e. drip and sprinkler irrigation. Additional 50.1 lakh hectare area has been covered under micro irrigation from the year 2015-16.
6. Electricity for the farm – PM-KUSUM scheme
The government heralded a new era by electrifying all the remaining un-electrified villages in India. PM-KUSUM scheme ensured support to 20 lakh farmers through subsidy for standalone solar pumps, reducing their input cost on diesel and electricity.
7. Insurance – Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is a safety net of the farmers when they suffer crop failure. The localised issues such as cyclone, unseasonal rains, hailstorms, etc. have been included in the insurance scope in addition to losses due to big disasters. Since its inception, PMFBY has proved instrumental in securing the efforts of farmers. For example, in the year 2016-17, in Karnataka’s Bidar district, soyabean and tuar dal were grown in about 1.25 lakh hectares. Due to heavy rain, around 90% of the crops got damaged. 1.21 lakh farmers got benefited from crop insurance and received Rs 150 crore as compensation.
The step by step reforms taken by Modi government are helping farmers generate more income and get easy access to infrastructure, favourable and transparent policies and information. However, there is still a fundamental gap in the way things are governed in the farming sector and without bringing these changes the intended growth cannot be achieved. Hence, three Farm Bills were introduced in 2020 which are nothing but continuation of the chain of actions that were started in 2014.
Farm Reform Bills of 2020 – what are these three bills?
<i> The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020:
If we talk about non-farming sector, for every product and service, all of India is a single unified market. Only farmers were denied this benefit. They were only allowed to sell inside the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC – state controlled marketing yards or mandis) where a monopoly cartel fixing low prices for the farmers’ produce, forcing distress sales. This bill will abolish such discriminatory laws. After this reform, farmers can sell their products to whoever they want, wherever they want (any part of the country) and whenever they want.
<ii> The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020:
This Bill makes provisions for the setting up of a framework for contract farming. The farmer and an ordained buyer can strike a deal before the production happens. Contract farming acts as a form of price assurance. Typically, in contract farming, the agreement is made between the farmer and buyer even before the crop is sown. Farmer already knows what MSP he can get for his crop. So, the farmer can negotiate a price above the MSP. The price in the agreement is only the minimum price the farmer can get. If the contractor makes a better profit than expected, farmers will be entitled to get a bonus over and above the minimum price they had bargained for. This reform will boost investment in the agriculture sector, through better assured prices, and contracts for farm services.
<iii> The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020:
When there was a severe shortage of food grains in the country, we had enacted Essential Commodities Act (ECA). But the same law was still in force even at a time we became the second largest food producer in the world. This law was the major reason why good warehouses could not be built in the villages and agro-based industries were not getting encouragement. This law was being frequently misused to intimidate traders and investors. Now, the agriculture sector has been freed from this fear. The traders and businesses can come forward to build storages in the villages. Farmers will benefit because they will not be compelled to sell their crop in local mandis or markets at low prices. Storage facilities will free the farmers from the problem of wastage they faced.
In summary, the reforms enacted by the government have given the farmers the right to sell their produce wherever they get better prices. Secondly, if the farmers wishe, now they can decide the price of his crop at the time of sowing itself. A potato growing farmer can sign an agreement with the chips-making industry, a mango farmer with the mango juice making industry and a tomato farmer with the sauce making industry, even at the time of sowing his crops! This will provide an assured price and relieve farmers from worrying about falling prices. Earlier, it was illegal to sell or buy produce outside the mandis. As a result, small and marginal farmers were often cheated, there were often disputes. Now, the small and marginal farmers can seek legal recourse in relation to transactions that have taken place outside the mandi, thus providing legal protection from fraud and cheating.
Myth v/s Reality
A lot of misinformation has been spread by the people who are opposing these farm bills. They want to create panic among small farmers and use them against the government.
Myth #1: MSP system will be scrapped
In reality, MSP is going strong even after farm reforms. In addition, government has offered to give it in writing that MSP system will remain unaffected. The Minimum Support Price (MSP) acts as a safety net for farmers by providing assured minimum income. Modi government has not only increased MSP in regular intervals but has also increased MSP procurement multi-folds. MSP payment to farmers for paddy has gone up by 1.5 times, wheat by 1.3 times, pulses by 75 times and oilseeds by 10 times during the last five years compared to five years of UPA-2 (2009 to 2014). This proves the lie and dishonesty of those who are spreading canards that MSP will end.
Myth #2 – Big Corporates will snatch the land from the farmer
The farm bill is about a contract on agricultural products, it is never about the land. Farmers have got special protection for their land and nobody can acquire it from them either while entering into contract or after it.
Myth #3 – APMS Mandis will be shut down
The farm bill gives farmers an additional avenue to sell their produce wherever they want – it does not mean APMS mandis will be shut down. Farmers will be free to sell their product either in the APMS mandis or to the outside buyers.
Myth #4 – No legal protection to farmers
In reality, the very purpose of these reforms is to safeguard farmers’ interests and save them from exploitation and stress selling. Government has even promised to set up fast track courts to settle disputes and protect legal rights of the farmers.
Myth #5 – Corporates will run their monopoly and exploit farmers
Privatisation will increase investment in agriculture sector and directly benefit farmers. They will get access to modern technology, they will have reach to the national and international market/buyers and they will play bigger role in overall supply – chain system. Employment in the farm products and food processing sector will rise among rural youth, and this will put India on the path towards becoming the leading food exporter in the world, while maintaining its own food security.
Who are the people protesting against ‘pro-farmer’ Farm Bills?
A small, organised, and well-funded group in a democracy can hijack the entire nation’s interest when the majority is silent and unorganised. The same thing is happening in protests against well intended Farm Reforms. The central government has agreed to pretty much all of their demands and is ready to address all the concerns raised but these people are hell bent on getting these reforms scrapped which is not only illogical but against farmers interest. We can classify them as:
1. Arthiyas (buying agents) and Farmers from Punjab & Haryana
These are mostly middlemen and rich farmers who have got huge investments in the mandis and consuming undue share of MSP. The reason for their protests is very simple – their selfish motives may not be served so easily post these reforms. Arthiyas may lose 100s of crore a year in commissions and tiny 6% minority of rich farmers of Punjab & Haryana who get excessive advantage of MSP system may face competition post these reforms.
The fact is 90% of the farmers do not get benefit out of the MSP regime. Nearly 89% of the rice produced by the farmers in Punjab is procured by the government. In Haryana, it is 85%. In a way, farmers in Punjab and Haryana are incentivised to grow paddy and wheat when the nation has been facing a shortage of pulses, and the wheat and rice have been in surplus in FCI’s godowns. Rice is a water-intensive crop and farmers from areas with water shortage want to grow it just because there is an MSP assured in the end. Continuous adoption of rice-wheat cropping system in North-Western plains of Punjab, Haryana and West Uttar Pradesh has even resulted in depletion of groundwater and deterioration of soil quality, posing a serious threat to its ecosystem and sustainability. We cannot allow a small irrational selfish minority to hold the interests of crores of farmers at a ransom.
2. Extremists Forces – ‘Bharat Tere Tukde Honge’ Gang
These people do not care two hoots about the farmers or farm reforms – their unidirectional, intense hatred is always aimed towards Hindus or their representatives (in this case PM Narendra Modi). These supporters of Umar Khalid, Sharjeel Imam and Burhan Wani, carry a supremacist agenda where ‘Hindustan’ shall become a sharia compliant place. They use any unrest in the country as a breeding ground to further their treacherous agenda.
3. Left Cabal and Marxist & Maoist Lobby
These people have problem whenever something good is about to happen in India. Their whole motive is to keep India undeveloped, weak and divided. Such a massive reforms may bring lot of parity in the social structure of India, this is unacceptable to them. Poor shall remain forever poor for these Yogendra Yadavs and Medha Patkars to sow seed of breaking India plants. They are the agents of instability, disruption and anti-development.
4. Greedy, Unethical Opposition Parties
These are the political parties (e.g. Congress, TMC, AAP, CPI, etc.) which are curse for the nation. The welfare of the common man is never in their agenda, the whole reason for their existence is money, power and nepotism. The current sorry state of farmers can be largely attributed to these hypocrites who speak about farmers’ welfare a lot but never do anything for it. Their worry is of two folds – the unscrupulous flow of money will be curtailed as more and more transparency will enter in the system and an ever increasing popularity of PM Modi and BJP due to pro-farmer and pro-poor measures will make them even more irrelevant.
5. Khaslistani Lobby
These are Pakistan’s ISI sponsored anti-India traitors who want to make an independent country of their own. These people have joined hands with the same extremist forces, to fight against whom Sikhism was born. These are not only the traitors of mother India but also great Gurus of Sikh panth. They see this as an opportunity to make inroads in to larger section of Sikh society which has so far completely rejected their secessionist agenda.
6. Innocent Farmers
These are the innocent farmers who are getting exploited by above five categories. The only thing government needs to do is to reach out to them, provide right information to them and take them in to confidence. The farm reforms are introduced to help these farmers – this message should be clearly, humbly and loudly go to these people. Whatever concerns they have should be heard of and resolved on priority.
One more category is the people of India who are not protesting but are observing the drama unfolding every day in front of their eyes. The right minded people among this category should stay rock solid behind the central government and strengthen it to take on first five categories described above. We cannot and should not let Breaking India forces take our country for ride.
It is extremely difficult to introduce any structural reforms in India. The moment anything good is about to happen in the country, the Breaking India forces will gather momentum and will try to stall the move. People with vested interests, unethical opposition parties and anti-India groups will mobilise anti-social elements, extremists forces and oppose every good move taken by the government that can bring far reaching positive change and correct past blunders. Be it an abolition of discriminatory and anti-India Articles 370 and 35A or giving shelter to persecuted minorities from neighbouring Islamic countries (CAA) or an attempt to ensure wellbeing of farmers – this gang will smell the blood from a distance and will try to disrupt the process.
As the level of awareness is increasing (thanks to the internet) the common populace is able to understand the dirty game plan of these bandits of the modern time. The more these people will indulge in anti-national, anti-people, anti-development activities, the more they will expose themselves. The opposition parties which indulge in ‘hatred for Modi’ policy have been hated by Indian voters in return. The level of frustration is so high that sitting CMs are calling ‘bandh’ in their own states. If there is one thing I would like to convey as a commoner to my PM, it will be my humble request to him to listen to genuine farmers and do everything possible for them but do not leave ‘rashtra – shatru’ unfinished. They have taken the national interests for ransom, every good move is being opposed and public life and harmony is disrupted. It is a time to finish these evil forces and their support system for once and all. In your own words, you have said recently…
अग्नि: शेषं ॠण: शेषं शत्रु शेषं तथैव च |
पुन: पुन: प्रवार्धेत तस्मात् शेषं न कारयेत ||
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