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Field Report: Farmers protest against unjust agri Bills passed by Parliament

Various farmer unions came together September 25, 2020, to hold countrywide protests against the three agriculture bills passed by the monsoon session of Parliament with much haste and amid a lot of drama in the Rajya Sabha.

The three bills — Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill 2020, the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill — have been opposed by farmers and opposition parties.

Protests took place September 25 in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Kerala. Several important highways and link roads like Delhi-Noida, Meerut-Delhi, Patiala-Chandigarh, Delhi-Meerut, Mysuru-Bengaluru and Chandigarh-Ambala were blocked.

Farmers in Punjab also blocked rail tracks in a three-day rail roko agitation. The Railways suspended several trains either completely or partially till September 26.

Traffic at the Noida gate on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border was hit and vehicles were stopped or rerouted as farmers from the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) blocked the gate with tractors amid heavy police presence.

The farmers chanted slogans like Azaadi (‘Freedom’), Modi teri gundagardi nahi chalegi (‘Modi, your thuggery won’t work’), Modi teri taanashaahi nahi chalegi (Modi, your tyranny won’t work). They added the agitation would be intensified if their demands were not met.

Several farmer unions like BKU, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), and All India Kisan Mahasangh have repeatedly called for adding Minimum Support Price (MSP) to the legal framework and making it a legal offence if any trader buys a farmer’s produce below MSP.

The farmers’ main protest is regarding the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill 2020. This Bill will raise farmers’ incomes, according to the government, by giving them a better price.

This is because they will be able to sell their produce to anyone and will not be bound by the mandis (wholesale markets) under the agriculture produce market committees (APMC) in their areas.

However, the farmers see it as a first step towards dismantling the mandi system where price discovery usually happens for their produce.

The trade inside mandis is regulated by the APMCs. But any purchase outside mandis lacks any regulatory oversight.

The rules of trade inside and outside mandis will be different according to the new laws. This may lead to traders, who were regularised by the market committee till now, moving outside the mandis.

While traders inside mandis have to pay a market fee to the market committee, there is no such rule for those buying from farmers outside.

“The arthiyas (commission agents / traders) who sit in the mandi currently, buy our produce. They are known to us and we can negotiate with them. They are regulated by the APMC law,” Rajesh Ambavta, a farmer from Jewar in Gautam Buddh Nagar district, said.

“Now they will be removed by big corporate arthiyas with whom, small farmers will not be in a position to negotiate,” Ambayta, who had come to the Delhi-Noida border to participate in the protest, said.

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