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FARMERS PROTEST- THE WAY AHEAD

Recently, there is an upsurge on the internet for the ongoing farmers protest which started long back after the Parliament introduced three ordinances, namely the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance 2020 and lastly the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020. The question is “Why are the farmers protesting the ordinances?”

The Union Government by introducing the above ordinances aimed to provide an alternative to the APMC system and allow the farmers to sell directly to the buyers, bypassing the government to enter into a contract with private companies which is called as Contract Farming. It also allows the farmers to hoard goods. Previously also the contract farming system existed, but that was based on only verbal contract whereas now as per the new ordinances, the same will be written to ensure that the rights of the farmers can be better protected. 

Previously, when farmers used to sell crops through auction at the State’s Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), they used to get an MSP (Minimum Support Price). After the introduction of the new norms, the Farmers are claiming that the Bills will phase out the MSP and the Grain Market system will crush the small and marginal farmers as they will have to be dependent on Corporations and such private firms, who will then exploit them. 

Moreover, Section 19 of the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 states that any dispute caused between the farmers and corporations will be resolved by a sub-divisional magistrate. Now, the Corporations might have an upper hand over here because farmers lack the financial capacity of affording litigation costs. 

However, in the case of M/S Nandan Biomatrix Ltd. v. S. Ambika Devi & Ors., the SC stated where the farmer has purchased goods or availed of services in order to grow produce for his/her livelihood, the fact that the said produce is being sold back to the seller or service provider or to a third party cannot stand in the way of the farmer and the farmer will come under the ambit of the definition of a ‘Consumer’ under Consumer Protection Act, 1986 and thus a dispute in contract farming can be resolved through  Consumer Forums, i.e. the Consumer Commissions as well; but sadly the same is neither informed to the farmers nor is it mentioned in the bills. 

The protest “Delhi Chalo” had reached its ceiling limit when on the tenth day of their ongoing protests on the borders of Delhi, farmer leaders ran out of patience and embraced twenty-five minutes ‘maun vrat’ and refused to speak. They are just holding up a placard where they want a straight answer either in ‘yes’ or ‘no’. 

However, the answer cannot be summed in a single word as the problem is complicated and better communication needs to occur from both the sides. Farmers have always nurtured seeds to provide for our nation but as of now the miscommunication is resulting in an alarming situation of chaos.  

“No Farmer, No Food” the farmers should be better informed about their rights by the Government. On the other hand, the Government should incorporate farmers’ requests, for instance, providing clarifications on the status of MSP. Amending the bills as to the farmers’ request instead of completely doing away with the bills might be an approach for overcoming the tedious situation. 

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