Three agricultural laws were passed in India on September 20th, 2020, and Indian farmers, who represent approximately half of the Indian population, are holding huge protests, sometimes going violent, to let the government know they are not happy about it.
So what are these laws and what is so bad about them?
The first law, the Farmer’s Produce and Commerce Bill, emphasized that the government is now giving farmers the freedom to sell their crops directly to businesses instead of having the government as their “middleman.” This law may not seem all too bad, but the issue is that the government protects farmers with Minimum Support Pricing, meaning that each of their crops has to be bought for a specific minimum price. The farmers believe that the government made this law in support of a plan to remove Minimum Support Pricing, which is, of course, their blanket of security in terms of making ends meet, somewhere in the near future. They also believe that since farmers are at the beginning of the supply chain, if the farming industry collapses, the rest of the economy could potentially go down with them.
The next bill that was passed is called the Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services. The bill is yet another tool that’s purpose is to encourage Indian farmers to set contracts with businesses in terms of their crops’ pricing, making them rely less on the government. This is further proof of the statement that the government wants to remove Minimum Support Pricing.
The last bill is called the Essential Commodities Bill. The government wants to remove several products like onions and potatoes from the essentials listing, as well as give Indian farmers more freedom to control the production and distribution of their crops, meaning there is no limit to how many crops can be bought from them. Removing so many crops that some farmers rely on to keep their business running is already an issue in itself, but another issue people have with this law is the fact that some businesses can essentially monopolize more crops than needed, which for the most part, can greatly affect other consumers.
Let’s summarize the big issue here. The Indian government passed not one, not two, but three laws, that greatly affect the farming industry but barely consulting their farmers. These laws give the appearance of giving Indian farmers more “freedom,” but can cause businesses to use farmers for cheaper material costs, removes this blanket of security that ensures farmers get a fair amount of profit, and can even affect the number of crops consumers can get their hands on.
So, is the government really trying to give their farmers more “freedom,” or is that just an excuse to remove farmers from their list of responsibilities?