Reforms have only, and only 
farmers' interests at heart

Recently, three crucial Bills have been passed in the Parliament for agricultural reform in the country. The need for these reforms has been longstanding and these legal amendments are going to bring big positive changes in the lives of farmers.

Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to double the income of country farmers by 2022. Towards this endeavour, the government began taking steps under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from the beginning of the first term of NDA government in 2014.

From irrigation, power, fertiliser and seeds, to the development of agricultural infrastructure, the Government has done important work. Along with these efforts, there was also a need to provide relief to the farmers by amending the law.

Political parties are raising many false questions, for their own selfish ends and these are baseless. There is an attempt to generate confusion. I want to make it clear here that implicit behind these reforms there is only, and only the interests of the farmers at heart.

The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, provides freedom to farmers to sell their produce. The bill fulfils farmers' dreams of one country, one market.

Even after seven decades of Independence, the farmer was the only producer who was bound to sell his produce only in the local market. With this bill, he has got freedom from the mandis, now the farmer can sell his crop at any place and through any means in the country. He will also get a fair price for his crop, and his income will also increase as well, because of reduced transportation costs and he will save on market tax.

Similarly, the Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, aims to connect farmers directly with traders, companies, processing units, and exporters.

The farmers will get remunerative prices in every circumstance, as the price of their produce is fixed before the sowing through agricultural agreement. Here, I would also like to clarify that the farmers will get additional benefits under this law, in addition to the minimum price, if there are price increases.

Under the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, a provision has been made to remove grains, pulses, oilseeds, onions and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. This will increase the capacity of storage and processing and farmers can sell their crops in the market at a reasonable price.

All the three bills are revolutionary steps taken under the able leadership of the Prime Minister towards increasing the income of farmers, and bountiful results are sure to be visible in the future.

Opposition parties are spreading confusion by saying the Government will stop buying at the minimum support price (MSP), the mandis will end and the farmer will become a puppet in the hands of industrialists and corporate houses. As far as the MSP is concerned, on the second day after the passage of these bills, the government had declared the MSP for the upcoming rabi season.

These bills have no relation with the MSP, which will continue. Mandis will continue to function as before, except that farmers now have the freedom to sell produce at the mandi or elsewhere. Such competition will also ensure that the mandis also get an opportunity to develop their infrastructure.

Recently, the Prime Minister announced an agricultural infrastructure fund of Rs one lakh crore under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign. Through this fund, we will try to eliminate the imbalance in the field of agricultural infrastructure that continues to exist in the country even now.

The Government has taken this step, keeping in mind that warehouses, cold storage and processing units should be set up in villages, as opposed to cities and private investment reaches villages in the field of agriculture.

Recently, the Government had also decided to set up 10,000 Farm Producer Organisations (FPOs) in the country. This step aims to lead small farmers towards commercial farming in an organised manner. Such a measure can only lead to enhanced agricultural facilities, adopting newer, improved methods of cultivation and will also reduce costs.

The new bills also have provisions to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for the same produce and all their interests are protected. I would exhort political parties to pause and think once about the interests of the farmer and the nation, and only then decide on their future course of action.

The writer is Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Government of India.

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal