After a long run debate, our Indian Parliament has finally decided to repeal the three controversial farm laws which were enacted last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation has assured that the legislative process for the repeal would be completed in the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament. He also requested the farmers to return home to their families and put an end to the protest.
So why were the Farm Laws repealed? How did the farmers react? To know more about these, keep reading!
PM Modi’s Stand
On the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti as on 19th November 2021 Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the repealing of the three farm laws by addressing:
“On this auspicious day of Gurpurab [birth anniversary of Guru Nanak], I appeal to all farmers who are protesting to return home in good spirits, Guru Nanak ji had said 'Vich Duniya Sev Kamaiye, Taan Dargah Baisan Paiyeea'. It means that only by taking the path of service to the nation can life turn out well. Our government has been working with this sense of service, to make the lives of people easy”.
With the emergence of various allegations that the step to repeal these farm laws is in connection with the elections, BJP members clarified that the decision had nothing to do with the polls and the decision was taken merely to end the protest. They made no comment with regard to any plans, to bring back the laws in another form later.
Parliament’s Interference with Farm Laws
The founding fathers of our Constitution predicted to adopt the practice of federalism. The VIIth Schedule of the Constitution is a classic feature of the spirit of federalism, with the Union List (List-I), the State List (List – II) & the Concurrent List (List – III) each assigning subjects on which the Centre and the state can make laws.
Under Entry 14 in List-II, States have the sole right to legislate on the subject of agriculture like most states in India have enacted laws on agricultural marketing boards known as Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees. (APMCs).
Under Entry 28 in List –II, the power to make laws with regards to markets and fairs also, falls in the exclusive State domain.
Under Entry 33 in List– III, any law-making body (i.e.; either the Parliament or state legislatures) are empowered to inter alia legislate on matters with respect to the ‘trade and commerce in, and the production, supply, and distribution of foodstuffs, etc. with no mention of agricultural land in its ambit.
Then, under Entry 41 in List- III, the custody, management, and disposal of property (including agricultural land) declared by law to be evacuee property has been stated, it is the only Entry where ‘including’ word has been used for agricultural land under which Parliament is also empowered to frame laws on agriculture.
From these provisions, we can probably analyze that the Parliament lacks legislative competence under Articles 245 and 246 to enact any law pertaining to “agriculture”, except through the gateway of Entry 41 of List III (Concurrent List). Therefore, it was mostly argued that Parliament overstepped itself in bringing the three agricultural laws as agriculture comes mainly under the State domain.
Pros & Cons of Farm Laws
Last year, in September, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent for the three bills passed by the Parliament. The three Acts were: Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
Benefits of Farm Laws
The farmers had moved towards a freer and more flexible system.
Selling produces outside the physical territory of the mandis will be an additional marketing channel for the farmers.
The new bill has not brought any major drastic changes, only a parallel system working with the existing system. Prior to these bills, farmers can sell their produce to the whole world, but via the e- NAM system.
The amendment to the Essential Commodities Act which is one of the three bills under protest removes the scare or fear of the farmers that traders who buy from farmers would be punished for holding stocks that are deemed excess and inflicting losses for the farmers.
The bills ensure that the farmer or the producer is given the same attention as production is and the farmer gets the stipulated price for crops so that farming survives.
Drawbacks of Farm Laws
The Farm Acts hampers the monopoly of APMC (agricultural produce market committee) mandis, thereby allowing the sale and purchase of crops outside these state government-regulated market yards or mandis.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill does not give any statutory backing to MSP.
The government declares MSPs for crops, but there has been no law mandating their implementation.
The only crop where MSP payment has some statutory implementation is sugarcane for which FRP is determined. This is due to its pricing being governed by the Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966 issued under the Essential Commodities Act.
The new bills were placing farmers and traders at the mercy of civil servants, rather than of the courts.
How did the farmers react to the Farm Laws?
Despite the benefits, both sides failed to negotiate the farm laws thus, resulting in its repeal. Farmers who had been protesting at the borders of Delhi and in their states since last year rejected proposals by the Central government to amend the controversial new farm laws. They argued that the proposal was inadequate and accused the government of being “insincere” and also warned the Parliament to intensify their protests further. These Acts were passed by Parliament during the monsoon session in 2020. Till date, farmers feared that the Centre's farm reforms would pave a way for the dismantling of the MSP system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big companies.
Until the beginning of this year, eleven rounds of discussions had been held till January 2021 but these negotiations were of no use as none of the sides were ready to climb down from their stand. Post the 11th round of negotiation, While the farmers remained unshakeable on the repeal of the three farm laws, the government asked them to consider their offer of suspending the implementation of the Acts for one-and-a-half years.
But they ended up at no conclusion being drawn and for the first time, no date was fixed for the next round of talks.
After these talks failed, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of these farm laws.
And on 19th November 2021, these laws were repealed thus, making farmers elated.
After the announcement on the repeal of 3 farm laws, a group of farmers was seen celebrating at the Ghazipur border whereas farmers in Punjab & Haryana have been raising flags of victory and distributing sweets.
However, until the farm laws are repealed on papers, farmers claim that they will not have any faith in verbal promises. Constitutional measures to repeal the three farm laws will be finally taken in this Monsoon Session.
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