New Farm Laws & the Fate of Socio-Economic Justice

It is not amazing as to how the BJP has government pushed ahead with the new farm laws and has landed itself in a soup over the same laws with farmers all over the nation and specially Punjab and Haryana enduring the cold and the rains to assert that they are not satisfied with the new laws that seek to put a new market in place.

Under reference is the monumental failed effort by the Modi 1.0 to transform the agri markets by the E-NAM project, which did not yield the desired results and the fertiliser and farm produce subsidies along with minimum suport price delivery have been if not shoddy then unsatisfactory. It is worth pointing out that the government has not been able to tame the agri-mafia which often lead to hoarding and inflation of prices of agri-produce. Also alternative income generation plans for farmers and the crop insurance policies have failed considerably.

The Modi 2.0 seized the COVID-19 opportunity to push ahead with the new farm laws that personally on a plain reading appear to be visionary to this author, but are not based on the ground realities of the actual agri-markets. The reality of the agri-market is domination by the license raj and the oligopolistic structure which often tends to support the farmers when the governments and the several banks fail to help, while at the same time the framework offers a market to all the grades of agri-produce and the farmers have a right to determine the best price for their produce since the quality and marketability depends on a variety of factors.

The simple action that shows the policy hysteria of the current government is the 2 day approval granted by the Central government in allowing 25% procurement of Arhar in Maharashtra at MSP. Since the government has not been able to provide any assurance to the farmers on MSP in the new farm laws, and the introduction of large corporates in agri businesses brings many concerns that the government has not given a thought to will require a simple question for them to answer- Will the Mandi system be not a perfect place for the croporates/ start-ups to buy farm produce instead of promoting an arbitrary price regime imposed upon the farmers by the corporates operating under the new farm laws?

Further, the government has also failed to take the Opposition as well as the farmer groups into confidence when the fact is not just about doubling farm incomes by pushing private investment in agriculture but the idea is to increase the value given to the labour of the farmers and offering socio-economic justice not just to the farmers but also to the buyers so that the ‘thalinomics’ does not get interrupted. Also the marketablility of the farm produce is another question since large and small farmers produce all grades of agricultural produce, while there are some who produce goods that have a low market value also. While the present agri-markets provide a single market place for all produce, a little overhaul would have done wonders instead of an attempt to cause massive disruption in agri market which will be disastrous to the goal of providing maximum food to the maximum people at an affordable cost.