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Farmer outfits call for Bharat Bandh

Ghalib Hussain

23 September 2020

Protesters assembled under the banner of 'Aikya Horata', which translates to United Struggle. (Sources: Indian Express)

Farmers’ rights outfits have called for a Bharath bandh on September 25 after the Three Farm Reform Bill was passed by the government, despite staunch opposition. The Rajya Sabha passed two of the three farm reform bills on September 20, 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. The essential commodities (Amendment) Bill was passed on September 23.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 gives farmers the option to sell their produce directly to private buyers rather than through the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) markets which are also known as mandis. The APMC Act made it compulsory for farmers to take their produce to commission agents in wholesale markets, who would then either sell it private traders or state-run agencies. The Price Assurance Bill will allow farmers to enter into contracts with buyers or “sponsors” as termed in the bill which may be individuals, partnership firms, and limited liability societies before sowing, which will provide a framework on the sale and purchase of produce. It also covers a list of things including but not limited to, duration of the agreement, delivery, and payment agreements. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill aims to declassify items including cereals, pulses, potatoes and, edible oils as non-essential items which would mean the government would no longer regulate these items with the exception of extraordinary situations such as war or famine.

Farmers and farmer organisations such as the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSS) and Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) have been protesting across the nation. One of the primary concerns raised by the protestors is the elimination of Minimum Support Price (MSP). The farmers have expressed their discontent with the new bill as it does not clarify the future of MSP. In a report by The Wire, P Sainath said that corporates will arm-twist farmers into being paid the minimum remunerative prices. Without MSP farmers could be at risk of being exploited, which could lead to problems in the future and could threaten their very livelihood.

Many farmers’ organisations, as well as the opposition party, have been protesting this bill.  Shiromani Akali Dal, which is known to be a BJP-aligned organization, has spoken up against the bill. Further, Food Processing Minister Harismat Kaur Badal has resigned from the Union Cabinet. The Punjab Youth Congress, who wanted to protest in Delhi, led a Kisan Tractor Rosh Rally from Punjab but were stopped by the police force from taking the Haryana-Delhi highway. Farmers in Haryana blocked roads and highways by occupying roads in several parts between 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm on Sunday, September 20, as a sign of protest

Sources: The Wire, The Times of India, Economic Times, The Hindu

Edited by Varun Paleli Vasudevan

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