The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021, which the Union cabinet approved, will be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, starting on November 29. It will bring the curtain down on the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The laws were opposed tooth and nail by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the consortium of 32 unions representing farmers who feared the new laws would put them at the mercy of large corporates. They feared the potential outsized influence of big new private players on their land holdings and the prices their produce might command, besides losing the right, under these laws, to move courts in disputes.
High on the list of worries of the agitating farmers was the anticipated creeping death of the government’s MSP (minimum support price) mechanism, which apart from being a promise of assured procurement of select crops is also, by extension, a fair price discovery mechanism. It’s another matter that the bulk of said procurement happens in two crops—wheat and paddy.
Now that the repeal of the other three laws is imminent, the farmers sniff an opportunity to press their other demand to write the MSP into law. But even as they celebrate the promised repeal and the retreat this represents for the government, the farmers seem unwilling to lower their guard or call off the agitation.
If the farmers persisted with the protests in the middle of a pandemic and despite attempts to discredit and intimidate them, it’s because they see it as a question of survival.
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