Farmers protesting against the Centre’s agricultural laws on Friday passed a resolution against the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, PTI reported. Friday was the second day of the “kisan sansad” or farmers parliament at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. It coincides with the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
The farmers also discussed how the Centre’s three new farm legislations destroyed the mandi or agricultural markets system, according to The Indian Express.
According to the government, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, aims to create trading opportunities for farmers outside state-run Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees or APMCs. It is also referred to as the “APMC bypass Act”. However, development economist Jean Drèze said last year that the Act gives “sweeping powers” to the Centre to regulate trade outside the APMCs.
On Friday, the protestors said the Act undermined the Constitution and demanded its repeal. “Farmers need much higher number of operating mandis and not fewer mandis,” a statement from the protesting farmers read, according to PTI.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella of over 40 farmers’ unions and associations, had appointed a speaker, a deputy speaker and an agriculture minister for Friday’s session. There was also a question hour.
Ravneet Singh Brar, who played the minister during the session, stepped down from his position after failing to address farmers questions, PTI reported.
Jagtar Singh Bajwa, who was the deputy speaker, said: “The agriculture minister failed to answer questions following which the members shamed him, leading to a disruption. The question was that when the prime minister himself has stressed on the fact that the MSP [minimum support price] will stay, why there is any issue to make it a law.”
Bajwa asked why the government couldn’t make the laws again after consulting the farmers. “Why is it so difficult to cancel the three new agricultural laws?” he asked. “The agriculture minister and the government have failed to give any satisfactory explanation to the members.”
A farmer from Madhya Pradesh, Rahul Raj, who was among the speakers at the session told The Indian Express that the mandi system had flaws. “We were asking them [the government] to fix it. Instead, they’ve finished around 80 mandis in the state. It is eventually becoming completely privatised.”
The farmers protest
The farmers fear the central government laws will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime. The government, however, continues to claim that the three legislations are pro-farmer.
In January, nearly two months into the protest movement, the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of the farm laws. It instead set up a committee and tasked it to consult stakeholders and assess the impact of the laws.
Talks between farmers groups and the central government to resolve the protests came to a complete deadlock after farmers rejected the Centre’s offer to suspend the laws for two years. The last time both sides met was on January 22. Since then, most farmer leaders have said they were willing to speak to the government again.