The Modi 2.0 promulgated three ordinances and further pushed with the bills in the monsoon session of the parliament followed by the resignation of the Minster for Food Processing Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the SAD citing the anti-farmer approach of the new legislations. The Opposition as well as all the farmer bodies have been carrying out protests over these bills and still the protests are leaderless and there are not much of issues that have come to the fore.
One notable intellectual had written somewhere that in India, since we don’t have large landholdings and agriculture is more manual labour consuming than mechanised like the western economies such changes will make commodities expensive, and the farmers will be cheated while the consumers will bear the burden of heavy prices. The point of this article is to assess solely how after so many years of hard-work by all the opposition led governments we have failed to make agriculture profitable that even in 2019 we fight elections on the plank of farm loan waivers; and why is it that there is so much of migration from villages that people prefer toiling in the cities to make living than to toil their fields and live a decent life!
Farm loan waivers and farmer suicides, have shaped the political discourse during elections in almost all states except Punjab and Haryana where acreage and productivity of farm yield tops along with Tamil Nadu and Kerala which have exceptional farming outputs. Despite these many states still have irregular land holdings and the varying climatic conditions lead to crop failures on a large scale. The total output of the agricultural produce is decided by the APMC middle men, “Arhatiyas” who decide the prices and in the wake of minimum support price from the governments, the actual prices fetched remain absolutely poor.
There are instances where small farmers don’t prefer selling their produce since the return on their effort is too low and they use it for personal use. The net productivity in farming is on the decline despite the fact that animal husbandry and MSP, and the APMC act have been there like forever now. The Arhatiyas, not the market forces decide the prices a crop fetches, and these market mafia often are the ones with resources to hoard the crops at various points. These mandis also impose multiple taxes, these are ills which make things tough and expensive for the farmer and the consumer respectively.
Famous brands such as ITC and Patanjali leased lands from various farmers and they pay monthly subsistence to the farmers, meanwhile employing one of their kin to the company. The company directly sources the product from the fields and manages the input and maintains the farm as per their requirements. The wheat atta that they produce is the same price we buy from any other company on the shelf of a supermarket, the only difference is the business model.
Companies like the BigBasket and Grofers have tied up with organic farming ventures who produce vegetables with only organic manure, and is stable in terms of prices and goes down well with the consumers who are health conscious and find it affordable.
With the above experiments, the bills seek to ensure a One Nation One Agri-Market for us, and then with the ability to decide to whom to sell and at what price, the farmers stand in a better position to fetch a better price for their produce. The investment that agriculture needs today in terms of mechanical inputs, or weather resistant technologies, or even basic income support has to come from the instrumentality of the market that is private entrepreneurs who deliver the end products to the consumers and reap profits while the state just creates a socialist regime of invest and forget approach!
The actual concerns are of the large landholders, and the hoarders, along with the Arhatiyas who move the agri markets with their muscle and money, it is their money that is used to mobilise the protests today, and it is their efforts with which we see stark fluctuation in prices of onions and tomatoes (recently) while all these agri-mafia and intermediaries move the world with their whims, the farmers are at the beck and call of the government and the consumers remain as ignorant as they can be since they cannot change their eating habits overnight, and shell out as much money as a seller asks them to!
The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 are progressive laws which should be implemented even for a limited time, since enhancing the income of our farmers is very important in order to sustain our huge population, and keep food prices stable in the long run. The farm incomes will in the future have direct impact on our economy and we will have to make agriculture self sustaining so that farm loans are waived off by the farmers out of the profits they reap on their produce.