New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government Wednesday proposed some amendments to the new farm laws, to try and resolve the concerns raised by farmers protesting at Delhi’s borders since the last week of November. However, the farmers rejected the proposal, and stuck to their original demand of total repeal of the new laws.
The government’s draft proposal was sent by agriculture ministry joint secretary Vivek Agarwal to 13 farmer leaders who had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday night. It provided a written assurance that the current minimum support price (MSP) procurement regime would continue.
In all, the government proposed seven amendments in two of the new laws — the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. It did not touch the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, at all.
“The government has tried to address the concerns of farmers with an open heart and with respect for the farming community of the country. The government appeals (sic) the kisan unions to end their agitation,” it had said before the farmers’ rejection Wednesday evening.
Apart from assuring farmers on the issue of MSP, the government also addressed another major concern in the proposal — about the dismantling of state-run APMCs. The government suggested registration and taxation of private mandis and traders with state governments on similar lines as state-run APMCs.
The farmers feared that the mandi system would weaken because of the new laws, so the government said an amendment can be made wherein state governments can register the traders operating outside mandis, and can also impose tax and cess, like for APMC mandis.
On concerns that farmers may be duped as anyone having just a PAN card is allowed to trade outside APMC mandis, the government said to rule out such apprehensions, the state governments can be given the power to register such traders and make rules keeping in mind the local situation of farmers.
Another major concern of the farmers — regarding dispute resolution for contract farming and outside mandi transactions — was also addressed. The Centre said it was ready to amend the laws to provide dispute resolution in civil courts, compared to the earlier provision of sub-divisional magistrates’ courts, which the farmers had rejected, saying they could not deliver justice and guarantee timely payment as they are not independent courts.
Contract farming and other issues
The government also proposed an alternate arrangement of registration of contract farming in the states until state governments could establish a way to register the new farm contracts. Under this mechanism, an alternate arrangement of registration of contract is to be made wherein the written copy of agriculture and farm contracts are to be submitted to the office of SDM within 30 days of being ratified.
Also, under the contract farming, no structure created by the sponsor or the trader on the agricultural land of the farmer will liable for a loan or a mortgage.
On fears that big corporates will take over farmlands, the government said it has already been made clear in the laws, but still, for clarity’s sake, it can be written that no buyer can take loans against farmland, nor any such condition will be made to farmers.
On attaching farmland under contract farming, the government said the existing provision is clear but still it can be clarified further if required.
On demands to scrap the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill 2020, the government said there won’t be any change in the existing system of electricity bill payment for farmers.
On farmers’ demand to scrap the Air Quality Management of NCR Ordinance 2020, under which there is the provision of penalty for stubble burning, the government said it is ready to find an appropriate solution.
(With inputs from PTI)