Mumbai: Amid the ongoing stalemate between the BJP-led government at the Centre and farmers’ organisations over the three farm laws, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, passed a crucial resolution demanding some amendments to overcome “drawbacks’’ in the Acts and to plug shortcomings, thereby allaying the fears and concerns of farmers.
The SJM, at a national digital conference on Sunday, made it clear that the Government’s intention in bringing in the new farm laws was good but it had to ensure remunerative prices to farmers under the law. In the absence of a 'mandi-fee' situation, buyers would naturally be encouraged to buy outside the APMC markets, the SJM argued. APMC mandis would no longer be preferred by private players and thus the farmers would be forced to sell outside. The SJM fears that in such a situation, big procurement companies may exploit the farmers.
“In such a situation, it would be appropriate that when laws are being made and purchases are being allowed outside the APMC markets, minimum support price (MSP) is guaranteed to the farmer and purchases below the MSP are declared illegal. Not just the government but private parties should also be barred from buying below MSP,’’ said the SJM in the resolution. Further, the SJM believes that if farmers sell outside APMC mandis, they will not have the facility of getting advances from traders. In such a situation, if a farmer enters a contract with a company, the payment should start from the sowing stage itself. In this way, payment could be made in 3 to 4 installments, the SJM felt.
The SJM has suggested that according to the new provisions, when any buyer can buy from the farmer by showing his PAN card, the payment should be made immediately upon the farmer's produce being lifted; or the government should guarantee the payment. All procurer companies and traders should compulsorily be registered.
“Though it’s good for the farmers to have more options to sell their produce, however, in reality, if one large company or a few companies dominate, the bargaining power of the poor farmers will be badly dented. The government had earlier said that 22,000 agriculture mandis would be established. This task should be completed on a fast-track basis,’’ said the SJM.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, defines a farmer as a person 'who engages in the production of farm produce by himself or by hired labour'. ‘‘This definition of farmer in the Bill is such that companies could also be included in the definition of farmer, which would not be appropriate. Swadeshi Jagran Manch firmly believes that the definition of farmer should include only the farmer who engages himself in farming, not companies,’’ it added.
Moreover, the SJM has made a strong case for putting in place a judicious dispute resolution mechanism for farmers engaged in contract farming, saying, “The ‘Dispute Resolution Mechanism’ proposed by the The Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, related to contract farming, is too complex for farmers. An already overburdened sub-divisional magistrate has been placed in a key role for dispute resolution and because of this, it would be extremely difficult for the farmers to get justice in the event of a dispute. The establishment of farmers' courts on the lines of consumer courts would be a plausible solution,’’ said the SJM.