Passing of farm Bills a watershed moment in history
The other day, I was reading the book, Bringing It to The Table: On Farming and Food by Wendell Berry.
The other day, I was reading the book, Bringing It to The Table: On Farming and Food by Wendell Berry. The author profoundly opens a question. "Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: "Love. They must do it for love." The sheer love for farming has made agriculture as the largest source of livelihoods in India. The Economic Survey Report of 2019-20 estimates that around 70 per cent of rural households depend principally on agriculture for their livelihood, with 82 per cent of farmers being small and marginal. Agriculture sector plays a vital role in not only in national food security but also for employment, income generation and rural livelihood. But still, unfortunately, the country has witnessed the lack of suitable marketing facilities in the agricultural sector.
I can elucidate it very well from my experience as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, looking after the development of the whole State while focussing mainly on agriculture economy of the State. Inadequate marketing facilities became one of the major bottlenecks for the wellbeing and security of the agriculture-dependent population of Uttarakhand. Thereby, to assure and streamline the marketing possibilities for farmers such that the farmers of the land can make fanfare with new investments, I had approved the APMC Act and Contract Farming act. A four-member expert team of agriculturists was set up, which toured States like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to study their system of APMC. The Act enabled provisions for establishing private mandis, enablement of contract farming and constitution of a regulatory authority avoid exploitation of farmers. Setting up of private mandis made it possible to cut out extra cess such as mandi cess, which finally, helped in reducing the final costs at both consumer and buyer end. This process initialized better gains for farmers. I did the whole exercise as agriculture marketing was starting to behold a significant transformation in India and across the world; mainly because of the phenomena of liberalization of the trade, including agricultural commodities. This movement impinged the restructuring of the agriculture market with a more integrated and strengthened approach.
While the farming community must be empowered for the global market access opportunities while ensuring fair trade between buyers and sellers for effective prices of farmer's produce, the farmer should also not stifled between the forces of traders, commission agents and other associations and unions. Realizing the challenges, the central government in 2017-18 had released the model APMC and contract farming Acts. After that, several steps were adopted to develop strategies for economically liberalizing farmers. The measures included the formation of the Standing Committee (2018-19) and High-Powered Committee of seven Chief Ministers in July 2019. Rigorous and comprehensive discussions were undertaken for the implementation of model Acts by States and needed changes for attracting private investment in agricultural marketing and infrastructure.
I am embarking upon the strenuous steps under by my colleague Shri Narendra Singh Tomar who under Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has bought a set of milestone reforms to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce. It is the moment that I must congratulate for being adamant for raising farmer's status and status.
The passing of two bills namely, The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 is truly a "watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture." The bills will bring economic liberation for the farmers from the tight constraints they had faced through the years. It is the time that their incomes would be doubled. The prosperity and wellbeing of farmers will bring economic transformation in the country. While saying so, I condemn ill narrative that is being built to miss guide the farmers erroneously.
The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 will facilitate both intra and inter-state trade of farmers' produce. The bill will also condemn the market fee, cess or levy by the state governments outside APMC areas. Though on one end, it enables the contract farming, on the other hand, it will also allow a three-tier dispute settlement mechanism. While, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 will help farmers in engaging with multiple stakeholders such as the processors, wholesalers, large retailers, exporters etc. A shield will be enabled for farmers from market unpredictability. A marketing platform with key features of transparency, accessibility and efficiency be developed. Research and new technology will be embedded in the agriculture sector like never before, adhering to the needs of the 21st century.
I am sure that the said reforms bought in by the government will lead to real Inclusiveness in Development. Promoting the economic liberalization of the farmers. The Bills will indeed hold on the quotation that "If the farmer is rich, then so is the nation." The revamped agriculture marketing will bring in the required economic transformation in the country.
(The author is Union Minister for Education)