There is a serious attempt, through these farm laws, to make agriculture an attractive option for educated youth too

A few foreign media outlets are known for their jaundiced view about India, its people and the government. To sensationalize their news stories, they distort facts, twist statements and color ground realities with brushes sourced from disgruntled elements.

This is exactly what The New York Times has done with its story: ‘In the Cold and Rain, India’s Farmers Press Their Stand Against Modi.’ In its January 9 write up, the US-based daily quoted Vikas Rawal, a professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University as saying that “The laws (three farm laws) are a shoddy attempt at liberalization. You just enacted them without thinking of farmers.”

However, quite contrary to the JNU professor’s statement is the fact that before enacting farm bills into laws, the issue had been thoroughly discussed, analyzed and reviewed by experts, farmers, administrators and politicians for the past two decades in the country. On December 19, 2000, the Ministry of Agriculture had set up an expert committee on ‘Strengthening and Developing of Agricultural Marketing’ under the chairmanship of Shanker Lal Guru.

The objective behind establishing this committee was to call for ideas to promote agricultural growth and benefits from exports and to ensure that a greater share of the ultimate price of the agricultural produce goes to farmers. It also included strengthening of agricultural marketing; development of infrastructure of infrastructure for agricultural marketing; establishing sound linkages between production and marketing, development of market intelligence for the benefit of farmers and consumers; promotion of direct marketing; application of information technology in marketing and encouraging public, private and cooperative sectors to make investments for the development of agricultural marketing.

Six months later, on June 29, 2001, the Shankerlal Guru committee submitted its report. It made several recommendations, one of which included remodeling the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs). On July 1, 2001, Montek Singh Ahuluwalia-headed task force on Employment Opportunities, called for the review of the APMC system as it was found to be controlled by commission agents.

“Not only is the price determination non-transparent, the large number of middlemen, each of whom charges a commission, squeezes the realisation of the farmer so that the gap between the farm-gate price and the retail price paid by the consumer is very large,” the Montek Singh Ahluwalia-headed task force noted. In between 2001 and 2020, over two dozen committees and task forces were established on the agricultural reforms and marketing. Several such committees were set up under the two-five year term of the Mannohan Singh government.

The National Commission on Farmers, chaired by M S Swaminathan on August 3, 2006 had categorically suggested review of the Essential Commodities Act and other legal instruments including the State Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Acts relating to marketing, storage and processing of agriculture produce in order to meet the requirements of modern agriculture and attracting private capital in agriculture sector.

“The farmer wants different options for marketing his produce. The State APMC Acts need to be amended to provide for, among others, encouraging the private sector or cooperatives to establish markets, develop marketing infrastructure and supporting services, collect charges, allowing marketing without the necessity of going through APMC/ licensed traders etc,” the Swaminathan committee had recommended.

Then, in one committee set up on March 2, 2010, the Central government was suggested to persuade various States and Union Territories to implement the reforms in agriculture marketing through adoption of Model APMC Act, 2003 and Model APMC Rules, 2007.

Therefore, the three farm bills were enacted in the backdrop of such recommendations and suggestions. They were not framed in a hurry as it has been reported by the US daily. There is no attempt to leave the country’s farming community in the lurch. Instead, the ground reality is that the three farm laws promise to change the fate of farmers by unshackling them from the chains of regulatory systems and middlemen.

There is a serious attempt, through these farm laws, to make agriculture an attractive option for educated youth too. In a country with a large unemployment rate, farm laws are argued to emerge as a milestone in generating avenues for employment. To sum up, the dream of making India self-reliant can’t be made a reality through castles of sand. There must be a solid foundation for it. And this is what the incumbent government is trying to do.