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‘Attempt to Americanise Indian agriculture’

by Annamalai Suriamurthy
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Pamayan, a renowned expert in organic farming and Tamil writer, discusses the implications of the recent laws on farming in this concluding part of the two-part series.
It can be easily said that the three new farm Acts are an attempt to Americanise Indian agriculture. In fact, American agriculture was privatized over 60 years back and its ranch owners sustain themselves on huge subsidies. Their income has been progressively declining over the years in a country where only 1.3 percent of the population is dependent on agricultural and livestock operations. About 100 years back, 43 percent of Americans were involved in agriculture. At present, 9150 lakh acres of land is under agriculture. In contrast, India has 3946 lakh acres of land under agriculture, and about 78 crore people are dependent on agricultural activities. In the US, only 39 lakh people are involved in agriculture. In this context, one wonders how the American model will fit into Indian agriculture. If these legislations seek to displace farmers, what disastrous consequences will it have? Have not we learned enough lessons from COVID-19 migrations? We can rejuvenate farming at this juncture only by infusing life into broad-based agriculture. This is the only way to protect the livelihood of the working classes.


Preetham Singh, a researcher, points out that the new laws tend to violate the rights of States as agriculture is in the State List of the Constitution. He also explains how the Centre is trying to rob the States of their powers during the COVID-19 pandemic on the lines of what Indira Gandhi did during the Emergency (1975-77). Legal luminaries can consider whether these legislations infringe on the rights of States. We can conclude that these laws are yet another attempt to rob the States of their powers like GST implementation and entrance tests for admission to institutions of higher learning.
But the most important concern among farmers is the minimum support price. Even the concept of MSP is not acceptable as the government, while fixing MSP, does not take into account the spiralling cost of production, inflation and the increasing prices of farm inputs. But even this minimum advantage for farmers is sought to be robbed through the new laws, farmers’ associations fear.
However, the government has given an oral assurance that MSP will not be discontinued. But there is no assurance to this effect in the new Acts. In fact, there is no provision to ban the practice of traders procuring agricultural produce at prices below the MSP. There is a law to protect the prices of onion as it is used by urbanites. Where is the law to protect the interests of poor farmers who live in villages?
What farmers expect now is that the government should identify a fair price as MSP for different food grains. It should be revised annually in tune with inflation. The number of direct procurement centers should be increased. They should be formed in such a way as to benefit small farmers. The concept of farmer producer companies should be redefined to confine membership to a maximum of 50 farmers and empowered to be self-reliant. The present practice of having over 1000 members has made these companies unwieldy and unviable.

Unhealthy practices

The government should also ensure that some of the unhealthy practices prevalent in the current system, which are listed below, are eradicated. In the name of ensuring quality, farmers are forced to sell their produce at rock bottom prices. Farmers are made to pay interest for the advance they had received for the produce. Cartels prevent them from selling their produce to a trader of their choice. There is no transparency in price fixation by private players. Farmers are cheated when their produce is weighed at the procurement centers.
The State government, for its part, should strengthen the public distribution system, which is functioning well. The commodities produced locally should be sent to the local fair price shops after value addition. Besides ensuring quality products for consumers, such a move will also fetch a good price for farmers besides cutting down on unnecessary expenditure for the government. This is a system advocated by Mahatma Gandhi and Gandhian economist J. C. Kumarappa. Production and distribution should be people-centric. The government should strive to cure this system of its ills instead of handing over the entire system to private players. The role of officials in ensuring the well being of farmers is also crucial. They should involve themselves in educating farmers, empowering them, and join them in the learning process.

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