The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a Bill to repeal the three contentious farm laws, which triggered year-long protests at Delhi borders by thousands of farmer. Prime minister Narendra Modi on November 19 announced the laws would be annulled in the winter session of Parliament.
The repeal of these three legislations has been one of the key demands of around 40 farmer unions protesting against these reforms, while their other key demands include minimum support price for their crops as legal right.
The Modi government has been firmly resisting the demand for withdrawal of the three reformist laws. It argued the laws would free the farmers from the clutches of notified APMC market yards, the burden of levies and exploitative market intermediaries, besides giving them the freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the country and fetch more remunerative prices. Agreeing with the government, several agriculture economists and experts have also said the laws would attract the much-needed investments in agri storage and marketing infrastructure, besides incentivising value addition.
Even after Modi’s announcement, farmer leaders asserted that the protests on the Delhi borders won’t be called off until the laws are actually repealed by Parliament. They added that the government must accede to other major demands of farmers including legislative backing for MSP system and withdrawal of sections of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 that allegedly threatens to undermine the supply of subsidised electricity for farming, via alleged centralisation of the tariff policy.
The Supreme Court had, on January 12, 2021, stayed the laws and set up a four-member panel to talk to stakeholders chronicle their views, and suggest amicable solutions.
Among the three laws, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, seeks to give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside the notified APMC market yards without any levy. This was supposed to ensure remunerative prices to farmers by facilitating competitive alternative trading channels. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, proposes to give farmers the right to get into a contract with firms to sell their produce upon harvest at a pre-agreed price. This law was aimed at transferring the risk of market volatility from farmers to companies and giving the peasants access to modern tech and better-quality inputs.
Through the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, the Centre wanted to remove items like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities and scrap the imposition of stock-holding limits on such items barring under “extraordinary circumstances”. This was aimed at drawing large-scale private investments and FDI into the farm sector.