Tax Consultant at ESSEL BUSINESS EXCELLENCE SERVICES LIMITED
The Indian Parliament passed three agriculture acts—Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance, Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020—during its monsoon session culminating on 23 September.
The contentious bills which received the President’s sign off on September 27, 2020, were passed amid an uproar by opposition party leaders and farmer groups alike.
Amid the stiff opposition, there have also been voices that have come out in support of the acts with some stating that they would “unshackle” the workforce engaged in the agriculture sector.
To cut through the noise, here are a few key points from each act that explain the changes proposed by them to the existing agriculture laws in the country.
The three farm acts: Key highlights
1. Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
This act allows farmers to engage in trade of their agricultural produce outside the physical markets notified under various state Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee laws (APMC acts). Also known as the ‘APMC Bypass Bill’, it will override all the state-level APMC acts.
2. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020
The acts seeks to provide farmers with a framework to engage in contract farming, where farmers can enter into a direct agreement with a buyer (before sowing season) to sell the produce to them at pre-determined prices.
3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020
An amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, this act seeks to restrict the powers of the government with respect to production, supply, and distribution of certain key commodities.
Curated articles, video and interviews
Keeping in mind the sharply polarised points of view and ensuing confusion on the implications of the acts, here is a curated list of articles, videos and events that explain the nuances of these acts and their potential impact.
1. Press conference
The working group members of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) will address the media about the organisation’s nation-wide action plan against the implementation of the farm acts.
Here’s a list of some of the protests that we could track. While most of them have been in the run-up to the passing of the bills, there are still a few planned over the next few weeks.
3. Who are arhtiyas?
In this article, Anju Agnihotri Chaba and Harish Damodaran explain the relationship between an arhtiya and a farmer, their role in agricultural operations, and the impact of the new farm laws on these ‘middlemen’.
4. Farmers have a right to be heard
In this article, Arun Maira, former member of Planning Commission of India, explains how the government’s dismissal of the concerns of farmers to push through bold reforms is not only bad for democracy but also reduces the quality of policies and makes them harder to implement.
5. Past experiments with farm deregulation
The privatisation of the sugarcane industry in 1998 and the deregulation of Bihar’s Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in 2006 led to no benefits for the farmers—sugarcane growers are still agitating for fair and timely payment of dues and Bihar’s agricultural infrastructure has not seen any sizeable private investment. Monika Mandal explains this in detail in this article.
6. Voices of farmers
In this article, Sayantan Bera of Mint speaks to farmers outside Punjab and Haryana to hear their voices on the new farm acts.
7. What are the farm acts and how will they affect farmers?
In this NL Cheatsheet video Meghnad S, Associate Editor, Newslaundry explains what the reforms are all about, and how they will affect farmers.
8. What will the new agriculture system under the three reform acts look like?
In the new set-up, it will not only be fragmented markets with different sets of rules but also fragmented regulatory structures that will create a more uneven playing field for farmers. Kavitha Kuruganti, convenor of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture explains this in detail in this article.
9. Why are farmers protesting?
In this interview with journalist Faye D’Souza, P Sainath, Founder Editor of People’s Archive of Rural India explains the impact of the acts on the country’s farmers while warning that it will lead to a “corporate-led” agriculture sector.
10. The farm acts make agriculture as free as other sectors
The laws allow farmers to perform inter-state and intra-state transactions freely, and increases competition between buyers providing better prices to the farmers.