All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), one of the constituents of the coalition of farmer organisations agitating against the Centre's new farm laws, has drafted an alternative law - Facilitation of Social Cooperatives for Agricultural Products (Processing and Marketing) Bill 2021 - for the consideration of state governments.
The 'Model Bill' intends to ensure protection of farmers from exploitation by middlemen and large corporate entities. It will ensure additional wages for agricultural workers, additional price for products to farmers and provide remedies for related matters, says Hannan Mollah, General Secretary, AIKS.
The farmer groups have been opposing the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. They claim that the laws have not only opened the doors of agricultural markets to private corporations and created a national framework for contract farming, but offered several benefits to private corporations to pave the way for further penetration of private corporations in agricultural sector.
The alternate Bill proposed by AIKS permits formation of Self-Help Groups (SHG) with the approval and under the direction of the respective Block Agricultural Social Co-operative Processing and Marketing Centre. It provides the structure of the SHG as well as the block level and state level agricultural produce processing and marketing centres. Local peasants and agricultural workers within each local body will be members of the SHG.
The model Bill says the objective is to produce quality agricultural products and enhance productivity by combining traditional and modern farming methods according to the potential of each region through the farmers' cooperatives and collectives. It also expects to avoid occupational hazards and ensure livelihoods and financial security for the peasant households. The law also talks about compensating crop damage caused by wildlife menace, natural disasters, pests and crop failures and ensuring insurance coverage and protecting the environment of the State while assuring reasonable and remunerative price to the farm produce through expanding local market facilities for various farm produce. Setting up modern warehouses to stock agricultural produce intact, convert raw agricultural products as value added consumer products by establishing modern technology based large scale crop wise agro industries, developing online and digital marketing to strengthen and further develop local and international markets, promoting agro-industrial culture in the state to ensure food security to the people by promoting food crops, are all coming under the purview of the model Bill.