With new farm Acts attempting reforms in many key areas of agriculture, farmers appear to be confused about their real impact and worried about future
The NDA government has pushed three farm Bills in both Houses of Parliament, but it has left the farmers in the State in a state of confusion. They are worried about their implementation, the freedom to produce and sell products of their choice, the role of corporate companies in the farming sector and most importantly, they feel that the laws lack clarity.
"It may be good, but since there is a lack of clarity in many aspects, we are confused a lot," says Thota Appalanarasaiah, a small farmer in Chodavaram mandal of Visakhapatnam district.
Primarily, many farmers feel that the amendment to the Essential Commodities Act might affect their farming prospects and their choice of crop.
"The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act will hurt farmers, especially small farmers, and the safeguards provided by the original Act, will be removed," CPI(M) State Secretariat Member Ch. Narasinga Rao tells The Hindu.
The Act was brought in by Parliament after learning a lesson from the Bengal famine of 1943. It ensured some safeguards and helped governments to get rid of hoarding and black marketing of certain commodities, he says.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act abolishes the old concept of market yards or mandis.
In India, over 86% are small and medium farmers whose land holdings vary from one to five acres.
N. Apparao, a sugarcane farmer from Anakapalle area of Visakhapatnam district, who produces jaggery, says, "Now there is a market yard and we negotiate on our terms and sell the product. But if it is shut then where do we go?"
"Jaggery is a small product compared to other produce such as wheat or paddy. But still, there is a yard and it benefits small farmers. The price is set in the yard in a democratic way and it is regulated, as per the demand and supply," remarks Konathala Lakshminarayana, president of the Anakapalle Merchants’ Association.
According to K. Narayana, CPI national secretary, in market yards there is a protection price fixed by the government and yard management. "If there is any mismanagement in pricing, there is scope for a dialogue and it may even lead to an agitation. If market yards are closed, everything goes into the hands of corporate companies. For a small farmer from Uttarandhra or Kurnool, it is not possible to go to Delhi to sell his products," he explains.
Many farmers also feel that their choice of produce and pricing may be dictated by the third legislation, the Farmers (Empowerment and protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.
"As per this Act, we get to understand that we have to get into a prior agreement on prices and services. Till now we have been negotiating with the government and it is fairly democratic, but with corporate companies, will it be possible, considering our level of understanding?" wonders Ch. Nageswara Rao, a small farmer from Narsipatnam.
"Corporate companies will dictate what is to be grown and at what price it is to be sold. The companies will look for produce that has more export value rather than what is required. Instead of a green revolution, it may lead to food scarcity. This happened in Latin American countries when corporates got staple crops replaced to produce food required for animals in the U.S.," says Mr. Narasinga Rao.
"Farmers will lose independence and small, independent farmers will become tenant farmers as it happened in Bengal during the colonial rule," feels Mr. Narayana.
Implementation holds key
However, another section feels that despite their lacunae the farm legislations may be beneficial if implemented properly.
"Everything depends on its implementation," says M.V.S. Nagi Reddy, vice-chairman of the AP State Agriculture Mission. The entry of corporate companies is a welcome move, but the governments should have control over pricing, products, area of cultivation and research, he opines.
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