- GS-3: Agriculture & issues.
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
SC panel report on Farm Laws
Context: The report of the Supreme Court-appointed committee on the controversial farm laws was made public for the first time.
Brief Background of the Issue
- The committee was set up for the purpose of listening to the grievances of the farmers relating to the new farm laws and the views of the Government and to make recommendations.
- The farmers accused the government of trying to corporatise agriculture through the laws and feared that they would ring the death knell for the MPS and mandi systems.
- The repealing of the three farm legislations was one of the key demands of around 40 farmer unions(under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM)) protesting against these reforms at Delhi borders.
- On November 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the withdrawal of the three farm laws, saying the government could not convince protesting farmers about the benefits of the agriculture sector reforms.
Key Highlights of the report
- Existing Policy unsuited for present: The report says that the existing agricultural laws & policies were first designed to boost production during the decades of food production deficit and scarcity, and are consequently unsuited for the present times when India has made the leap into a food surplus country.
- Objective of new laws: The three new acts are intended to enhance access to agricultural markets and incentivize crop diversification
- Legal issue of MSP: The committee suggested many changes in the laws, including giving freedom to states to make the minimum support price (MSP) system legal.
- Capping Procurement: The committee’s recommendations included capping the procurement of wheat and paddy by the Food Corporation of India (FCI). Instead of largescale purchases, the model adopted by the National Cooperative Agricultural Marketing Federation (NAFED) to procure oilseeds and pulses can be adopted.
- Dispute settlement– An important recommendation was an alternative mechanism for dispute settlement, through civil courts or arbitration mechanism, may be provided to the stakeholders.
- Agriculture Marketing Council under the chair of the Union Minister of Agriculture, with all states and UTs as members may be formed on lines of the GST Council to reinforce cooperative efforts in the implementation of these Acts.
- Government measures– The government should take urgent steps towards
- strengthening agricultural infrastructure
- enabling aggregation, assaying and quality sorting of agri produce through cooperatives and FPOs
- Silent majority support Farm Laws: The report stated that a “repeal or a long suspension of these laws would be unfair to the silent majority who support the farm laws.”
- The report claims that out of the 73 farmers’ organisations, 61 organisations (85.7%) representing over 3.3 crore farmers fully supported the laws.
What was the concern with the silent majority argument of the committee?
- 40 unions, which had organised agitations against the laws under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), did not make any submission despite repeated requests.
- 4 Farmers Organizations, representing 51 lakh farmers (13.3 per cent), did not support the Act, 7 representing 3.6 lakh farmers (1 per cent) supported with some suggestions for modifications
- Of the total 142 representatives who participated in meetings of the committee, only 78 were from farmers’ organisations, while 64 belonged to industry bodies and other organisations.
- The report shows that out of the 19,207 responses, only 5,451, or 28 per cent, came from farmers.
- Of these, the maximum responses were from Maharashtra (2,000-2,500), followed by “Unspecified” location (a little over 2,000), and then Rajasthan, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. These states saw negligible protests over the farm laws.
Connecting the dots: