Among the fears that the agitating farmers have raised are: possible shutting down of state-run mandis (better known as APMCs), free run to private buyers, registration of private buyers, insecurity of changing land ownership in case of contract farming, and taking away the rights of farmers to appeal in a court in case of dispute with buyers.
To break the standoff with farm unions, the Centre has agreed to make certain concessions in three farm laws at the heart of ongoing protests over Farm Acts. Among the fears that the agitating farmers have raised are: possible shutting down of state-run mandis (better known as APMCs), free run to private buyers as no provision of minimum price, registration of private buyers — farmers object to Centre’s provision of allowing anyone with PAN to become buyers, insecurity of changing land ownership in case of contract farming, and taking away the rights of farmers to appeal in a court in case of dispute with buyers or corporate in case of contract farming.
The Centre has tried to allay some of the fears by tweaking certain provisions of laws. It has offered to repeal the provision that had removed the market fee or cess or levy on trade done outside state APMCs. The government has proposed an amendment that will empower states to decide the tax, cess and market fee on private buyers. The farmers were seeking taxes on private players. Their argument was that if the private buyers don’t have to pay taxes or market fees then they can offer good prices to farmers. And if it continues for some time, farmers will shift to private buyers and APMCs will lose revenue and eventually shutdown. And when APMCs are gone, then the private buyers will have monopoly and will decide prices at their will.
The Centre has also proposed to make changes in the law to farmers to approach civil courts in case of any dispute in contract farming. In the current law, the farmers can approach SDM. On Thursday, the union agriculture minister tried to explain why the Centre made that provision in the first place. He said the thinking behind this provision was that the closest authority (to farmers) with the power of SDM was only SDM. So the Centre made this provision that farmers can approach SDM in case of dispute and the SDM will have to dispose of the case with-in 30 days. But in case of court, the minister said, the Centre can not direct it to resolve the issues within 30 days.
The Centre has proposed to amend the provision that allows — in current law — anyone individual with PAN to become buyers in private mandis. It has offered to make amendments that will allow states to frame rules on registration of private buyers. The Centre had earlier said that it brought this provision because it did not want red-tapism.
On Thursday, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar along with Piyush Goyal discussed each point in detail and said that there were no provisions at all in that act that enable the processors to take land from the farmers in case of any dispute. Addressing a press conference yesterday, the agriculture minister said that it was being projected that the land of farmers will be occupied by industrialists. He said that contract farming was not new in the country, it had been going on for long in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka but there has never been any such experience where a farmer has lost his/her land to a corporation.
The minister said that the Centre has already made provision in the Act that the agreement between processors and farmers will only be about produce and there is no provision for any lease or agreement over farmers’ land. As per current law, if a farmer and processor enter into an agreement and the type of crops is such that some infrastructure has to be set up on the farmer’s land then the processor will dismantle his infrastructure from there once the agreement has ended. And if the processor doesn’t do it, then the owner of that infrastructure will be the farmer himself – this has been provided in the law.