BL Explainer

Explainer: The farm laws, the protests and their repeal

Subramani Ra Mancombu | | Updated on: Nov 19, 2021

Many believed these reforms were India's 1991 moment for Agriculture that sought to change structural transformation.

What are the Farm laws?

They are The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. They were first promulgated as ordinances on June 5, 2020. The Parliament then passed the Acts in September 2020.

What did they seek to achieve?

These farm laws were considered historic as they sought to transform Indian agriculture by bringing about structural transformation. It sought to deregulate the sector and, most importantly, offer farmers the choice to sell their produce without any restriction. Many experts have called these reforms as India's 1991 moment for Agriculture.

How would it have benefited the farmers?

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act gave farmers the freedom to sell their produce to anyone, anywhere across the country, thereby earning better realisation. It also had provisions for setting up private mandis or a network of rural markets. It sought to free the farmers from the crutches of the middlemen. The Price Assurance Act was to help farmers enter contract farming with end-users or processing industries. This would have ensured that farmers were assured of returns even as they began sowing their crops. The amendment to the Essential Commodities Act would have attracted private investment into the farm sector.

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Why did the farmers protest against it then?

Farmers, particularly in Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, thought that the farm laws would result in the Centre doing away with the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism. Punjab and Haryana have the highest payout for MSP, and not surprisingly, farmers from these two states led the protests. They also feared corporate takeover of farming and had reservations over some provisions. The government's attempts to assuage their fears did not succeed.

What was Supreme Court's view on the laws?

Supreme Court upheld farmers rights to protest (though it made it clear that it did not mean they can block highways) and stayed the implementation of the farm laws in January this year. It set up a four-member committee to hear the farmers and submit a report. The committee submitted its report on March 19 this year, but it never saw the light of the day.

Why did the Government withdraw the laws after holding on for more than a year?

The laws never got going. The Supreme Court stayed them, and then, the Centre offered to suspend them for a year-and-a-half. The farmers’ protest, which has lasted for more than a year, was getting violent. A Union Minister’s son was allegedly involved in the October 6 incident in which eight farmers were killed when they were run over by his vehicle. It was also leading to caste clashes. With elections due in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in less than six months, the Modi government thought discretion was better than valour and decided to repeal the laws.

Read more: Why the new agri laws are not anti-farmer

Published on November 19, 2021

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