Suranjann G Dutta
Media Panelist, Bharatiya Janata Party, Assam Pradesh
While growing up, you must have heard about the slogan "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan" which means hail our farmers and soldiers. This slogan was coined by our late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri Ji, who is today well recognized for his agriculture reforms, making India self-sufficient in food grains. What Shashtri Ji did was India's first green revolution, which ushered a revolution in India's agriculture scenario, and it was a phenomenal start for India's farmers. But this enormous journey later lost the track, and today, our farmers' situation is much pathetic. The Modi government recently passed a historic new farmers bill 2020, which merits much appreciation for its transformative reforms. However, you may have seen in your televisions about a particular segment of politicians and farmers union who pretend to represent India's farmers are up in arms against this new bill. There has been a malicious try to provoke and misled our farmers on this bill and brush the government as anti-farmers.
But you must turn off your television for some time and read this column to understand this historic and revolutionary farm bill. I again reiterate, this bill is revolutionary and can usher a new green revolution in agriculture. Before arguing about this bill, let me share some facts with you. You may think that barely anyone is engaged in farming in today's time, but you are more than wrong if you feel this way. More than 50% of our total population are involved in agriculture. Yes, you may question how many of them genuinely want to remain engaged in this area, but even after amounting to more than 50% percent of our population, their contribution to GDP is a mere 16-17%. According to the NSSO report of 2016, the average income of farmers is around INR 6,400 per month, which puts 78,000 per year. But at the same time, 52% of our farmers are under the average debt of INR 1.4 lakh, which is even more than what they earn every year. Even our farmers only get 10-23% of the market price, which means that if we buy some food grain for INR 100 per KG, our farmers only receive INR 10-23.
All the above problems which I stated are connected to each other. Low price means low income, and low income means more debt and low contribution to our GDP. Have you ever wondered why our farmers don't get a fair price for their crops? To understand this, you must understand an example which I will illustrate now. For instance, you are a farmer in Lucknow, and you want to sell your farm produce. You can sell but only at a single place because the law permits you to sell your produce only at one place. Now this place is known as APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Corporation), regulated by the government. But again, there is one more condition, you can sell your produce only to your local APMC, not to the APMC of your adjoining city or state. You can't even sell it to any private players also.
These stringent conditions already reduce our farmers' customer base as they have to sell their produce only at their local APMC. But it's not easy to sell farm produce to these APMC's as the farmer will have to deal with commission agents or middleman to get his crop sell. This middleman takes a certain amount of commission, and it is this person who fixes the purchasing price. He may set the price low or high, but farmers can't negotiate on pricing much as this is the only place where they can sell their farm produce.
For instance, a farmer sold potatoes worth Rs 100 in APMC. Officially, the commission agent is deemed to get 6% of the sale, and APMC should get 1% of the total sale. The agent should get Rs 6 as a commission by this setup, but this agent himself purchases the potato from the farmer at Rs 100. Now, he sells the same potato to the vendor at Rs 150, which means he is making Rs 56 from this sale, but he was supposed to get only Rs 6 under normal circumstances, but he got 833% more than deserved. In the system, our farmers suffer and end up losing their maximum.
Now, the farmer is compelled to accept the price of his product set at APMC by the middleman, and with this monopolized market, the farmer doesn't get the correct price for his produce and loses his income level. But the middleman becomes wealthy with the commission, and our farmers very often take loans from them, which is not legally regulated, and many a time, our farmers fail to repay the loan and commits suicide.
Now this new farmer bill 2020 passed by the Modi not only frees our farmers all these impediments but also paves the way for better income. First, this bill ends the law, which makes farmer sell their produce only to their local APMC's. Now, the farmers can sell their produce in any APMC'S across the nation. Second, this bill allows the farmer to sell their produce to any private corporates across the nation, and if farmers want, they can enter in contract farming with corporates now. Doesn't this sound better and relieved? The same farmer who was forced to sell his produce at only one APMC and at a price fixed by the middleman can now sell his produce in any APMC'S and also to private players. This will raise farmers' customer base, and the farmer can now negotiate at multiple places, including APMC's. No geographical barriers or pricing barriers will help farmers achieve a better price for the produce and eventually boost their income level. Now more income level means more contribution to our GDP and less financial stress. Obviously, the middleman and few political systems which control the APMC's will lose, and their protest against this revolutionary bill can be well understood.
But for our farmers who were caught with several obstacles and barriers for decades, this can be a second green revolution.