Farmers Protest Explained: Why are Punjab, Haryana Farmers Protesting in Delhi?

Thousands of farmers are protesting the Centre’s new agriculture laws despite Delhi’s bitter cold and police force – on the borders of the national capital.

Farmers from Punjab, Haryana, and western UP are massively protesting the three new agriculture reform laws passed by the Parliament in September 2020.

Why are the farmers protesting?

Farmers say the new laws will leave them at the “mercy” of corporate buyers and will end the Minimum Support Price.

Minimum Support Price or “MSP” is the rate at which the government buys crop from farmers in case they fail to make sales in local markets or sell it to middlemen.

State governments stand to lose massive revenue from mandi fees, especially in Punjab, Haryana, and UP.

What are the three new laws?

1st Law: According to the “Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020” – farmers are eligible to sell their products anywhere outside their home state-regulated mandis without tax or fees burden.

2nd Law: According to the “Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance” – farmers can have corporate clientage, even before the yield of crops.

3rd Law: Per the “Farm Services Act, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020” – no restrictions in production storage movement and distribution of major crops unless extraordinary circumstances. Stock limits may be imposed on produce only if there is a considerable price rise.

The government says that farmers will be allowed to choose their market and the MSP system will continue. However, the farmers fear that the new laws will eventually end MSP support unless there’s a legal protection that no procurement will happen below MSP anywhere in the country.

The government says that 10,000 Farmer-Producer Organizations (FPOs) set up across the country will enable small farmers to deal with companies. However, the concern is for small farmers – corporate buyers will be hesitant to deal with small farmers.

The government says the farmers will have an equal say in setting the sale price. They can withdraw from the contract at any stage without penalty but a corporate buyer will have to pay a compensation fee in case of a breach of contract. The farmers say that corporate clients will have an upper hand in fixing prices and they’ll take the farmers to court in case of disagreements in the contract.

Nonetheless, the government stays firm on its stance that the new laws are beneficial for the farmers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his monthly radio program ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on Sunday said, “New dimensions are being added to agriculture and its related activities in India. The agriculture reforms in the past few days have also now opened new doors of possibilities for our farmers.”

“These reforms have not only broken restraints for farmers but have also given new rights and opportunities for them. These rights started mitigating problems that were being faced by farmers in a short period,” he added.

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