Why a 2018 private member's bill is on farmers' agenda

6 months ago 22
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Representatives of various farmer unions arrive for the seventh round of talks with the government over the centre's new farm laws at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday.

NEW DELHI: The farmer unions are holding the seventh round of talks with the Centre over their demand to repeal the three agri laws and extend legal guarantee to minimum support price (MSP) mechanism. In addition to this, they have demanded that the government promulgate an ordinance to meet their demands. They have suggested that a private member’s bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2018 should be made the framework of the ordinance.
The working group of the farmers’ umbrella body - All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) - has made its stand clear that the success of the seventh round of talks with the governments depends on "entirely on the repeal of the three farm acts".
AIKSCC is an organisation comprising 250 farmers' organisations. It was constituted after the death of six farmers in alleged police firing in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh in June 2017.
AIKSCC has said the repeal of the three farm laws enacted by Parliament during the monsoon session in 2019 and promulgation of the ordinance in their place is a simple and non-time-consuming task.
The farmer leaders are also believed to have discussed the private member’s bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2018 by then MP Raju Shetti of Swabhimani Paksha.
Shetti is a two-term former Lok Sabha MP and president of the Swabhimani Paksha party founded in 2004. He is also the chief of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghathan, which he founded after separating from the Shetkari Sangathan.
Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghathan is one of the 41 prominent farmers’ union under AIKSCC which is holding talks with the Centre.
Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghathan was a part of the NDA from 2009. However, it joined the UPA in March 2018. On April 6, 2018, he introduced two private member’s bills in the lower house. One of them was the ‘Farmers’ freedom from indebtedness bill’ while the other one was the ‘Farmers’ right to guaranteed remunerative MSP for agricultural commodities bill’.
According to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill, more than 55 per cent of India's population is principally dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. The past two decades, since 1995, have recorded more than 3 lakh cases of suicides by farmers. The Indian government data shows 12,602 farmers killed themselves in 2015 alone, mostly owing to economic distress. Indebtedness was responsible for 38.7 per cent. of suicides, while crop failures or the inability to sell produce lead to another 19.5 per cent. of suicides. More than 43 per cent of farmers who killed themselves in 2015 had small holdings, it said.
It said, “Data reveals that very often, even the cost of production is not recovered by farmers in realized prices, whereas the farm family has living expenses in addition to investments in farming. At present, the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices, for determining the Minimum Support Price (MSP), considers (1) Demand and supply; (2) Cost of Production; (3) Price trends in the market, both domestic and international; (4) Inter crop price parity; (5) Terms of trade between agriculture and non-agriculture; (6) Likely implication of MSP on consumers of that product. Using these various parameters, MSP is often fixed even below the cost of production, ignoring the right to life and livelihood of the producer.”
Meanwhile, the bill said, the food prices for consumers, especially those who are poor, have been secured at affordable rates through at least two legislations in the country - the Food Security Act, 2013 and the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. Therefore, there is every reason for price determination for farmers to take the sole mandate of securing adequate net returns to a farmer, over and above the comprehensive cost of production, rather than considering other parameters.
It said, “In view of the above, to uphold the right to life and livelihood of farmers, which are their fundamental rights, it is proposed to constitute National and State Farmers Agricultural Costs and Remunerative Price Guarantee Commissions which shall be autonomous body corporates, which should, once appointed, not to be under the control of the central or the state government and the determination of the comprehensive cost of production of the agriculture produce plus at least 50 per cent profit margin as a guaranteed remunerative minimum support prices of each and every agricultural commodity by the commission shall be final.”
The bill further said it was expedient to regulate the prices offered by traders, and to lay down rules for public authorities for accountable functioning to confer such a right to guaranteed remunerative minimum support prices for sale of all agricultural commodities of all farmers. “The central government takes decisions related to export and import of agricultural commodities keeping in view various factors. It is proposed that before taking such decisions, the government should consult the commission, and also take steps to ensure that the landing price of any imported commodity is not below the guaranteed remunerative minimum support prices fixed for that commodity within India at that point of time.”
Shetti’s private member’s bill said it was seen that to confer the legal right on all farmers to guaranteed remunerative MSPs, a redressal and compensation mechanism is necessary for farmers as well as traders. It is felt that the right to guaranteed remunerative minimum support prices which includes at least 50 per cent profit margin over the comprehensive cost of production will boost the morale of the farmer, who would be able to live comfortably, invest in his agricultural enterprise thereby potentially increasing productivity and production to ensure national food security be able to avoid falling into a debt trap.”

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