On the morning of 17 September 2020, three Farm Laws were passed in the Lok Sabha, and the country has been in a big debate ever since.
The argument over whether the farm laws will empower farmers or destroy the agriculture sector of India in ongoing since then. As the 8-month long dispute continues, let’s take a look at some of these questions and the truth behind them.
Are the Farm Laws Unconstitutional?
One of the main arguments being presented against the new laws is that the farm laws are unconstitutional. It was said that the Agriculture sector comes under the State jurisdiction and Centre does not have a say in it.
This is only partially true as agriculture falls under state jurisdiction, but agriculture produce is a trade commodity. The Concurrent list in the seventh Schedule of the Indian constitution gives Centre the power to make legislation regarding trade of commodities.
Therefore, the new laws are completely constitutional. The strength in this argument can also be determined from the fact that no state government, even for the non-BJP states, has gone to the Supreme Court against the laws.
Were the Farm Laws passed in a haste?
Another related criticism of the new farm laws is that they were passed in a haste, without the consultation of opposition parties and/or Farmer leaders. However, the truth is that the flaws in the APMCs (Mandis) were realized a long time ago. Ramesh Chanda, a member of NITI Aayog wrote in his paper:
“…the discussions on policy reforms and structural changes in agriculture started around the year 2000. It began with suggestions for changes in market regulation and removal of various restrictions provided under the APMC Act.”
APMCs were created as a means to strengthen farmers, but they gradually became a tool to exploit them. Farmers have to pay commissions and taxes on sale of their produce.
The traders at Mandis buy crops from farmers crops at a low price then sell it at a higher price to the consumer. The new laws allow farmers to trade directly with consumers without paying any taxes or commissions. They can sell their harvest outside the mandis and save the transportation costs.
This law will create a liberal competitive market for farmers which will ensure greater prices for farmers than Mandis.
Will the new law abolish Mandis and scrap MSP?
There have been rumors that the new laws will abolish the Mandis and scrape the Minimum Support Price. The Farm law, however, does not mention the abolition of Mandis or the MSPs. It instead gives farmers a choice to either sell their crops at Mandis or outside.
Why are the protests happening?
Protests started soon after the bills were passed. Farm leaders described these laws as Black laws for Indian Agriculture. Government has been holding talks with the farmer leaders to negotiate and listen to any reforms that they may suggest. Farm leaders, however, are bent on the laws being taken back without any concrete argument.
Several rumors on the new farm laws continue to make way through the protestors. However, it may be pertinent to note that these are baseless and in reality the laws are meant to empower the farmers and bring about the betterment of all in the time to come. The way forward then is for all parties to recognize the the proposed legal arrangement for what it truly represents.