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What are farm bills, who are opposing and why - an explainer

Once these bills will become laws, farmers can take their produce anywhere -- inter-state or intra-state -- beyond APMCs; states can't levy any fee or cess on farmers; and farmers and buyers can reach at an agreement before procuring harvest

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | September 18, 2020 | Updated 17:21 IST
What are farm bills, who are opposing and why - an explainer
Some parties and farm bodies say these bills will help no one, except big corporates

Three farm bills, passed in Lok Sabha amid opposition protests this week, have also become bone of contention between BJP and its ally SAD, prompting Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal's resignation from Cabinet. Kaur, the Union Minister of Food Processing Industries, was the only SAD representative in Modi government. These bills -- the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill; the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill -- have been touted as "anti-farmer" bills by opposition parties.

While addressing a rally in Bihar today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked those opposing the farms bills, saying misinformation is being spread in the name of the bills. "They (those opposing the bills) are forgetting how aware the country's farmers are," said the PM.

Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has said it would rethink alliance with the BJP.

As per the Modi government, these three bills will help small and marginal farms by allowing them to sell produce outside mandis; allowing them to sign agreements with agri-business firms; and doing away with stock-holding limits on key commodities.

As per the ordinances brought in by the government on these bills, farmers can take their produce anywhere -- inter-state or intra-state -- beyond APMCs. The state governments can't levy any fee or cess on farmers. The law also provides provisions for contract farming, meaning farmers and buyers can reach an agreement before procuring harvest. The laws also allow the Centre to regulate or impose stock limits on supply of certain food items under extraordinary circumstances or steep rise in prices.

Also read:Agriculture-related bills 'anti-farmer', AAP to vote against them in Parliament, says Kejriwal

Who are protesting against these bills

Political parties, farm organisations like Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and big agricultural bodies like the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and some section of farmers are opposing the bill. They say these bills will help no one, except big corporates and destroy farmers' livelihood.

The other side of the story

These three bills may liberate farmers from the clutches of middlemen, also known as arhatiyas. Lakhs of commission agents in mandis of Punjab and Haryana, both the leading farm producer states, will stand to lose their control over farmers and in turn huge revenue. State governments will lose mandi tax, also a huge source of revenue for them, which is why they seem to be opposing the bills.

These laws also don't do away with the old ones and only give farmers options to seek better prices of their produce. The farmers' bodies are of the view that new laws will slowly end the MSP (minimum support regime) regime, and will lead to huge loss of revenue to APMCs (Agricultural Produce Market Committees), which come under state governments. They also believe that farmers could lose rights to their own land at the hands of companies if these laws will be implemented.

Which party is for or against these bills

The Congress-led government in Punjab has described the legislations as a "blatant attack" on the federal structure. Last month, the Punjab assembly passed a resolution, rejecting the ordinances and subsequent Bills. Apart from Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Trinamool Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party have also opposed the bill. BJP's previous ally Shiv Sena has supported the bills, while BJD sent them to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Also read: Farm bills 2020: 'Misinformation being spread that farmers won't get right prices,' says PM Modi

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