India Today|October 05, 2020
Three highly contentious farm bills made their way through the Rajya Sabha between September 20 and 22, amid vociferous political opposition and farmer protests in the country.
Anilesh S. Mahajan

Two of these bills—the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill—were passed by voice vote on Sunday, September 20, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill on September 22, when the Opposition parties had decided to boycott proceedings in Parliament.

In an apparent attempt to stem the tide of farmer protests across the country, especially in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his reassurances just hours after the first two bills were cleared by the Rajya Sabha. Defending the “historic new laws”, the tweets, composed in Punjabi, sought to reassure farmers that they needn’t fear any dilution in the MSP (minimum support price) mechanism nor any slackening of government procurement of their produce.

In effect, the new laws open up the agriculture sector to private sector players, allowing anyone with a PAN card to buy produce directly from farmers. Earlier, these purchases were possible only through APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) mandis. The old regime, for all its imperfections, was a sort of insurance mechanism for the farmer. It served as a safety net in two ways—assured procurement by the government and a floor price (MSP) for his crop. The protesting farmers say the new laws, in creating an alternative to APMCs, in the name of giving them options, are in fact laying the foundations of a procurement dispensation that will ultimately bypass APMCs and abolish the current procurement and MSP protections.


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October 05, 2020