The Union government has tabled three reform bills in the parliament related to agriculture in the country. Two of them were passed by Rajya Sabha, rather bulldozed through Rajya Sabha on Sunday. A huge uproar could be seen as the deputy chairperson denied the demand of the opposition for a count and made the bills get passed without counting simply by voice vote. Eight MPs of the Rajya Sabha have been suspended for the rest of the monsoon session making it easy for the union government pass the bills they want to get passed through the Rajya Sabha where the ruling NDA doesn’t have a majority.
It will be useful to understand what these bills are and how they would finally affect the farmers and peasants of the country. The three bills which are going to replace the ordinances can be interpreted as “The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020” as the APMC Bypass Ordinance. Treat “The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020” as “The Freedom of Food Stocking by Agribusinesses Ordinance”, and “The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020” as the Contract Farming Ordinance. It very clearly means that the first bill will replace Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act making all the cooperative efforts to save the farmers from the middlemen fizzle down. The repeal of Essential commodities Act by the second bill will allow the agri- business owners to hoard as much agricultural produce as they want. And the third Bill about which little debate is seen in the media is the most lethal one which will destroy the farmer’s will to sow what they want. The corporate will control the agricultural produce once the contract farming is introduced. It can be compared to the forced cultivation of indigo during the rule of East India Company. The Prime Minister and Union Agriculture Minister are saying that Minimum Support Price will continue and in a fit political move the MSP of some agri products have been announced to befool the people. The truth is only 6% of the agricultural produce is sold through MSP. Rest 94% is sold in open market. There is no MSP for fruit, vegetable, many of the pulses and some of the oil seeds. It is a misnomer which is being emphatically reiterated by the union government. The truth is that the NDA government has been indifferent to agriculture sector. The growth rate of agriculture after 2014 has been static at 2% per annum and the people employed in agriculture have been forced to other sectors as now agriculture is no more a profitable activity.
Moreover what is alarming is the haste in which the Bills were passed. In Rajya Sabha NDA does not have a majority. One of its allies Shiromini Akali Dal had declared to oppose the Bills and Harsimrat Kour, Union Minister had already resigned from the government. In such a situation it would have been impossible to get the bills passed. The opposition fell into the trap of the government and acted in such a manner that gave the deputy speaker an excuse to suspend them for the remaining session of the Rajya Sabha. This stance taken by a person who has a socialist background and has been a journalist is a big alarm for democracy. A fascist decision by a socialist is by no standards a healthy step for democracy.