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The Article ‘Repeal of farm laws: All you need to know‘ covers extensively the foremost demand of the protesting farmer organization which was the repeal of the three new agricultural laws. The article elucidates the various reasons behind the farmers’ protest. The Government brought reforms in the agricultural sector through those enactments but unfortunately, the farm laws were in force only for a period of 221 days.
The author intends to highlight that for the potential beneficiaries the economic reforms should be more transparent and effective. The author expects that there is also the requirement for a strong reform in the agriculture sector.
Introduction: About Repeal of farm laws
India is an agrarian society. No matter that growth has been seen in the secondary and tertiary sectors of the Indian economy in the past few decades, the primary sector i.e. the agricultural and farming sector still contributes much more to the GDP as compared to the other two sectors. What is a bit alarming is that participation in the primary sector is reducing every decade.
Considering this, is it not important for the government to pay attention to the farmers? Yes, it is. And for the same, the government brought in three farm laws for the benefit of the farmers including all small, middle and rich farmers but ultimately the laws were formerly stayed and then repealed.
What were the farm laws?
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
- The Act aimed to open up agricultural sales and marketing outside the notified APMC which is Agricultural Produce Market Committee and mandis for farmers, It would have removed the hindrances that come in inter-state trade and would have provided an electronic trading framework for agricultural produce.
- It would have grown the extent of the exchange region of farmers’ produce from a selected region to
“any spot of production, assortment, aggregation”.
- It denied state government from imposing any market expense, cess, or demand from farmers, and electronic trading portals for the exchange of farmers’ directed in an ‘outside trade region‘.
- This legislation tried to break the restraining infrastructure of government-controlled mandis and permitted farmers to sell straightforwardly to private purchasers.
Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020
- It made a national framework for contract cultivation. It was supposed to give a legitimate structure to farmers to go into formal and written agreements with organizations and produce for them.
- The formal and written agreements which were entered into by the farmers preceding the creation or raising of any farm produce, record the agreements for supply, quality, grade, guidelines and cost of total farm produce and administrations.
- The Act mentioned a mechanism for dispute resolution and accommodated a three-level dispute settlement structure which will comprise of Conciliation Board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Appellate Authority.
Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020
- This Act removed oilseeds, edible oils, potatoes, onions, cereals, and pulses from the list of essential commodities. This Act aimed to deregulate the complete set of production, storage, movement and distribution of the above-mentioned commodities.
- The Act required that the imposition of any stock limit over any agricultural produce should have been based on price rise and nothing else.
- If implemented, the Act would have allowed agribusinesses to store food articles beforehand and would have removed the restrictions that government imposes arbitrarily.
Why were they brought and protested against?
Before the three laws namely The 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 were brought into action, the agriculture system was being governed by Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 was controlling the production, supply and distribution of trade commerce in certain commodities, and the Act was designed to be in the interest of the general public. So, then what was the need to formulate new laws altogether? For a very long time, a major reform in the agricultural sector including agricultural marketing was missing.
The government at the centre took notice of the same and took up the issue in the early 2000s by pushing for reforms therefore, under the government in power in the year 2003, the Agriculture Ministry came up with the design of a model APMC Act in and circulated it among the states. However, the long-forgotten missing reform was given a push by the present government to go in for the reforms in the sector bypassing the new laws.
But why did the farmers protest if the laws were essential to bring reform? According to the farmers,
it was essential to repeal the laws as they thought that the laws were made for the big corporations, exporters, wholesalers and private companies that were capable of dominating the food and agriculture sector and it would leave the farmers helpless as they wouldn’t be able to negotiate with such corporations.
The farmers wanted the minimum support price to be guaranteed in order to ensure getting the crops at a suitable price. Farmers believed that the new laws would disrupt the Mandi System that suits them, and also make them suffer heavy losses as their revenues would dry up. The farmers were also scared of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill. They demanded the withdrawal of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, as they felt that they won’t get free electricity if the bill got implemented.
The constitutional validity of the farm laws
- Agriculture is placed in entry 14 of Article 246 of the Indian Constitution and “markets and fairs” is mentioned in entry 28 of the State List. However, entry 42 of the Union List has given the power to the centre for regulating the trade and commerce that takes place among the states. But when it comes to trade and commerce within the states, it is mentioned in entry 26 of the State list and is subject to the provisions of entry 33 of the Concurrent List. What is interesting here is the Centre becomes capable of making the laws that shall have to be prevalent over those enacted by the states.
- The trade and commerce of “foodstuffs, including edible oilseeds and oils, fodder, cotton and jute” come under Entry 33 of the Concurrent List which means that the centre can pass any law that repeals all impediments both in the cases of inter-state and intra-state trade. It can also override the APMC Acts of all the states.
- Going by the abovementioned constitutional provisions it can be said that the Centre possesses the right to frame laws both for inter-state and intra-state that will promote barrier-free trade of farm products along with the laws that restraints stockholding and remove export barriers.
Repealing the farm laws
When after so many protests, the situation seemed to be going out of the clutches of the administration, the Supreme Court had put a stay order on the three acts in January 2021 till further notice. It is to be noted that the farm laws were only in force for 221 days altogether ever since the president assented to it, mentioning the dates to be exact, on 5th June 2020 the laws were passed to come into force and were staying on 12th January 2021.
The farm laws repeal bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 29th November 2021 and it was passed the same day. Soon after its validation, the bill moved to the Rajya Sabha and also got passed on the same day i.e. 29th November 2021.
The Official Gazette of India under which ultimately the repealment of farm laws was published was a two-page document consisting of three broad points that said:
- An Act to repeal the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020,
- The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020,
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and to amend the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
Be it enacted by Parliament in the Seventy-second Year of the Republic of India as follows:—
- This Act may be called the Farm Laws Repeal Act, 2021.
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 are hereby repealed.
- In section 3 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, sub-section (1A) shall be omitted.
Was it necessary?
Whether or not something is necessary or important always has two different aspects, one for and one against, but it is also proven by the test of time whether an act or omission was worth it. Just like a coin has two sides, whether it was necessary to repeal farm laws or not also has two aspects.
If seen from the point of view of the government, the laws were capable of bringing reforms, could have increased the income of the farmers, the wastage of resources would have been minimized, there would have been an expansion of farming, increased investment opportunity, a way for research and more importantly the implementation of these laws would have validated the informal contracts.
Considering what was the point of view of the farmers, it was essential to repeal the laws as they thought that the laws were made for the big corporations that were capable of dominating the food and agriculture sector and it would leave the farmers helpless as they wouldn’t be able to negotiate with such corporations. Farmers believed that the new laws would disrupt the Mandi System that suits them, and also make them suffer heavy losses as their revenues would dry up.
While some spectators supported the government’s step to bring reforms, others clearly considered it to be against the spirit of federalism.
India is a democracy and every single citizen has the right to be heard. Here, in the case of bringing in new legislation for farmers, it was a direct tussle between the legislators and the farmers who were supposed to be the beneficiaries according to the Government.
The Government in multiple rounds of discussions and direct interactions with the farmers tried to convince them but it failed every time. What we can make out from the repeal of farm laws is that for any law to be implemented over a group of people, it is essential that they permit to do so as it is a democracy and not a dictatorship. In other words, how can you feed a person who doesn’t want to eat?
To make a person eat a meal, one has to make sure that the person is hungry and that is what seemed lacking when it came to the implementation of farm laws, the farmers were just not hungry for it. What is to be learnt here is that any reform to actually work must be transparent, interaction-based and better communicated to the nation as it takes time and humbleness to bring about a change and change is only possible when citizens are convinced enough. To conclude, we can say that a strong reform in the agriculture sector is long due and still awaited.
References Farm Laws Repeal Act, 2021, Available Here  The Farm Laws, Repeal Bill, 2021, Available Here  The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Available Here
 The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, Available Here Repealing Farm Laws, Available Here  The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Available Here