On the auspicious occasion of Guru Purab last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the decision of repealing the three revolutionary farm laws. The decision was sudden and took everyone by surprise but as the shock factor has subsided, one can observe that the farm laws have simply changed their shape while BJP has cut its losses in one swift motion.
The Farm laws were already null and void, courtesy of the Supreme Court
PM Modi repealing the three laws came at the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year. In January, the apex court had stayed the three farm laws and also formed a four-member committee to talk to the protesting farmers and the government stakeholders.
Succinctly put, the farm laws may not have been implemented even if the farmers had ended their protests overnight. The judiciary system of the country is infamous for its lethargy and the legal proceedings would have meant that farm laws would have stayed in limbo for eternity.
BJP covering its bases ahead of the election season
Moreover, with the election season approaching in two big-ticket states — Uttar Pradesh and Punjab; BJP could not have gone unprepared. In Western UP, where most of the Jatt vote bank resides and which had given overwhelming support to BJP in the last elections could not be ignored anymore. Thus, pacifying them became an important task at hand.
Similarly, with Amarinder Singh’s caveat of ‘repealing the farm laws’ being the only hurdle in his merger with BJP, the saffron party didn’t want to take any chances. Even with a self-destructing Congress, a renewed SAD, and a dark horse in AAP vying for the majority in the 117-seat assembly, BJP needs all hands on the deck. With Amarinder around, BJP has an outside chance of scripting the unthinkable.
The Farm laws are already reforming the sector
That being said, the repealing of the farm laws comes at a time when it has already started to reform the agriculture sector. The BJP ruled states have already brought their versions of the central laws without any protests and farmers are already reaping the rewards.
In December last year, the BJP government in Karnataka — then led by B.S. Yediyurappa — passed the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, its version of the Centre’s Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, which sought to modify the APMC law.
Uttarakhand’s Agriculture Minister Subodh Uniyal remarked the Centre’s laws were already put on hold due to the Supreme Court’s decision in January, staying their operation, and the repeal will have no impact on the state’s Uttarakhand Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Act (APM Act), 2020, modelled on the central farm laws.
Moreover, Uttarakhand and Karnataka weren’t the only states to implement a version of the farm laws. Others included Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh.
Kerala has no Mandi system
And if we look down South, Kerala’s Pinrayai Vijayan government that has been protesting against the farm laws at the top of its voice has its version of the central laws. The southern state does not have any Mandi system in place as it claims it has a strong grassroots-level procurement system in place.
A rough iteration of the first farm law is that the farmers have the freedom to sell their produce anywhere. The farmers in Kerala are already doing the same and yet the Left has a problem with implementing the same law on the national level.
Bihar farmers and the freedom of selling anywhere
After freeing the shackles of APMC, Bihar’s agricultural growth in the last one and a half-decade has been around 8 per cent which is three times more than that of India’s average (3 per cent) and four times that of Punjab (2 per cent).
Despite the state government not providing the best of facilities, such a quantum leap is astonishing. Imagine, if Punjab had clocked in such changes a few years back or had stuck with the farm laws.
The Centre has already introduced the DBT scheme for farmers
As for removing the Arhatiyas (middlemen between the government and farmers in the food procurement system) is concerned, the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs and Food and Public Distribution, Piyush Goyal in April this year had kickstarted the ‘One Nation, One MSP, One DBT’ initiative.
Announcing the decision on Twitter, Goyal had remarked that Punjab will get the payment for the products sold at Minimum Support Price (MSP) directly in their bank accounts. He added that once Punjab-based farmers receive payments in their bank accounts for selling farm produce at MSP, the system would also be made applicable on a pan-India basis.
उपज का दाम सीधा बैंक खातों मे जाने का लाभ, उन किसानों को भी मिलेगा जो किराये की जमीन पर खेती करते हैं।
सिस्टम में पारदर्शिता आने से वह किसी के बहकावे में नही आयेंगे, और इन किसानों को भी उपज का पूरा दाम मिलेगा।
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) April 12, 2021
Is hoarding done by the Arhatiyas, who’ll answer that?
Those concerned with the hoarding laws and fearing that big companies would have hoarded the supplies should understand that middlemen are the biggest hoarders in the current archaic setup. They hoard the supplies and only release them when the profits are amplified. These middlemen are known as arhatiyas.
The arhatiyas have the political backing and charging them with any penalty or fine has been a worthless exercise as the entire procurement process remains rather unprofessional and informal.
The three farm laws were supposed to bring parity to the small farmers who are often razed by the big farmers and Arhatiyas. However, given the monster the protestors had metamorphosed into in the last year by hijacking the national capital boundaries, with Khalistani feelers openly roaming amidst the protestors – the losses far outweighed the gains made by the introduction of the laws.
With the other BJP states set to bring their iterations of the now-repealed Central laws, the non-BJP and protesting states will be gawking and missing the reform train. A few years down the line when the new laws will start to show their benefits, the protesting farmers will realize that they punt their fortunes on the wrong reform locomotive.