NEW DELHI, 14 December 2020: The All India Kisan Coordination Committee (AIKCC) since its inception from the early 1980s has been leading a sustained struggle to free farmers from the exploitative policies of the various govts at the centre and the states.
AIKCC from the beginning have been demanding freedom for farmers from the various trade restrictions and controls that deny farmers the right to get a remunerative price for their produce.
In a letter address to the Agriculture Minister by AIKCC (All India Kisan Coordination Committee) Dinesh Sharma said, “We welcome the steps taken by the government to free farmers from the stranglehold of APMC markets. We are happy that through the first of the three Acts now passed by the parliament, granted freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside the APMC markets. We request you to provide sufficient legal remedies to farmers to enable them recover their dues from those traders or buyers who default on their payments to farmers on some pretext or other. This will help remove misconceptions from farmer’s minds about this act and will make it more acceptable to the farmers”.
Gunavant Patil, Secretary KCC and Past president further added, “if some state governments are opposed to the 3 laws and continue to oppose them indefinitely, we demand that it be made optional for states to accept or reject the 3 laws so that the federal spirit of accommodation is accepted by all concerned”.
Some of the points to be addressed in the letter to the minister
Total abolition of the ESA (Essential Commodities Act)
The farmers will be able to realize the best prices for their produce in the open market if and only when the markets are efficient and competitive so this law of supply and demand is allowed to play its role fully. We, of the AIKCC, have always been demanding the total abolition of the ESA (Essential Commodities Act). The act makes only some inconsequential cosmetic changes in ESA without reducing the power of the bureaucracy to interfere in trade. We once again reiterate that continuing ESA in even a diluted form will nullify whatever positive effects that freedom from APMC markets may render the farmers. Therefore, we demand that the ESA is abolished altogether so that agricultural markets are made efficient enough to enable farmers get remunerative prices for their crops.
Regulate Contract Farming
We support the second Act that aims to regulate contract farming. Under this act, legal remedies must be made available for farmers to recover their dues in case of disputes or breach of contract. Farmers freedom to trade must include the freedom to export their produce to countries where prices are favourable. We demand that a consistent and stable policy of agricultural exports devoid of arbitrary short sighted actions dictated by domestic political compulsions be framed. This should be formulated based on the understanding that Indian agriculture today is the most competitive sector of Indian economy with the brightest potential for exports to world markets.
The unregulated segments of agriculture like dairying, poultry farming and fisheries are recording remarkable growth rates compared to cereals, pulses and oilseeds where govt actions of cheap imports, export bans, domestic trade restrictions based on the ESA are ending up depressing their domestic prices. We, therefore, demand that the govt cease distorting domestic markets of these commodities. This will only ensure that the full potential of the farmers of the country as the drivers of our country's economic growth is realised to the full, something that the outstanding performance of India's agriculture during the Covid-19 pandemic has proven beyond doubt.
Food security- Public Distribution System (PDS)
In the current form where the very poor are given subsidised food in physical form through the PDS system is the source of colossal corruption and wastage in our economy. The food distributed through PDS is being diverted and leaked to the open market with the connivance of the PDS shops, officials of the civil supply dept. and, the officers of the procurement and stockholding agencies like the FCI, NAFED etc. This is causing artificial lowering of domestic food prices and erosion of farmer incomes. We demand that the below the poverty line population be given cash food subsidies through DBT directly to their bank accounts in place of the distribution of subsidised foodgrains and sugar etc. through ration shops. This will remove the distortions caused to the open market prices due to leakages of food from the PDS.
Cutting Edge Technology
Right to technology to Farmers for quality Crop Protection by overhauling the regulatory system. Introduction of new technology pesticides on priority, data protection, use of bio-seeds, regulating spurious pesticides, and upgraded new technology will help the agriculture sector in transition to contemporary farming practices. We need modern technology and government should create an amicable environment for this. For example, he added why farmers are charged GST on Pesticides as 18 percent. Govt should create a neutral committee of expert to review the policies responsible for highly regulated agriculture environment in the country. The key focus points will redress some of the long-standing demands of the agriculture sector and bring our farming practices up to speed with the farming regulations in developed economies. We will more than happy if Government accepts these demands and address our issues.
Last but not the least, schedule 9 of the Indian Constitution is populated with hundreds of anti-farmer laws that have been beyond legal challenges in courts. All these anti-farmer laws must be scrapped to give a level playing field to Indian farmers as compared to entrepreneurs in the sectors.