Protesters hold placards and shout slogans against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest rally in support of farmers against the recent agricultural reforms, in Amritsar on December 13, 2020.
Protesters hold placards and shout slogans against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest rally in support of farmers against the recent agricultural reforms, in Amritsar on December 13, 2020.
(Photo by AFP)

Mumbai: Amid the ongoing stalemate between the BJP-led government at the Centre and farmers’ organisations over the three farm laws, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) on Sunday has passed a crucial resolution demanding some amendments to overcome ‘’drawbacks’’ in the Acts and to plug the shortcomings and allay the fears and doubts.

SJM at their national digital conference has made it clear that the government’s intention in bringing new farm laws was good but it has to ensure remunerative price to farmers under the law. SJM argued that in the absence of a Mandi Fee situation, the buyers will be naturally encouraged to buy out of the APMC markets. APMC mandis will no longer be preferred by private players and thus the farmers will be forced to sell outside the APMC mandis. 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 only the government, but also private parties should be barred to buy at less than MSP,’’ said SJM in the resolution. Further, SJM believes that if farmers sell outside APMC Mandis, they will not have the facility to get advance from traders. In such a situation, when a farmer enters into a contract with a company, the payment should start from the sowing stage itself. In this way payment can be made in 3 to 4 instalments.

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 as soon as the farmer's produce is 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 affected. The government had earlier said that 22,000 agriculture mandis would be established. This task should be completed on a fast track basis,’’ said SJM.

‘The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation), 2020 Act defines a farmer as a person "who engages in the production of farmers' produce by himself or by a hired labour". ‘’This definition of farmer in the Bill is such that companies will also be included in the definition of farmer. It will not be appropriate. Swadeshi Jagaran Manch firmly believes that the definition of farmer should include only the farmer who engages himself in farming, not companies,’’ it added.

Moreover, SJM has made a strong case for putting in place a judicious dispute resolution mechanism for the farmers engaged in contract farming. ‘’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 very complex for the farmers. Already overburdened Sub-Divisional Magistrate has been placed in a key role in dispute resolution. Due to this, it would be extremely difficult for the farmers to get justice in the event of a dispute. Establishment of Farmers Courts on the lines of Consumer Courts would be a plausible solution,’’ said SJM.

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