OPINIONS

Reforms in Agriculture and Farm Laws – A Repetitive Discourse

One of the primary areas of concern for the current government with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at its helm, has always been to cover as many people under its welfare initiatives. The secondary concern has been to increase participation of the people in the country’s growth. However, even after constant reaffirmation and the proven success of innumerable new initiatives, many politically motivated factions have sought to discredit a hardworking government with falsehood and unnecessary allegations.

It has become quite obvious that the foundational claim of those currently opposing the government – that farmers are a simple and unsuspicious group, prone to be taken advantage of – is demeaning at best. A farmer, who understands subtle changes in the seasons, plans multi-year cycles and cares for his land with every scientific and traditional tactic, surely holds above par intelligence. PM Modi’s most recent speech, which was peppered with relevant data and echoed free-will, is another reaffirmation. A farmer understands farming-related numbers much better than those who attempt to misguide them, it seems the Prime Minister knows this as well.

It was not because of a lack of intellect that prevented farmers from making lucrative deals in the past, it was the age-old laws. These laws, formulated as India was emerging from an age of scarcity, have become restrictions in an age of surplus. Over the last 6 years, there have been plethora of schemes and initiatives that have been launched, and then subsequently reinforced with infrastructure plans like the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund, Cold storage chains, large-scale fertilizer plants etc. The new laws, dedicated only to promote and facilitate agriculture and promote all related trading across India, are one of the definitive steps for growth and welfare.

 

Due to the historic nature of the new farm laws, which have also been a regular feature on the election manifestos of many political parties for almost two decades, apprehension against the leader who could finally take this bold step is understandable. What isn’t however, is the support from commission agents. Given their authoritative position in APMC mandi’s, these agents must be well-versed in economies of scale and ideas of aggregation. Going forward, it is expected that their roles would metamorphosise rather than be cut out completely. Something similar happened in the case of stock brokers who have over the years settled and thrived in the roles of consultants and advisors. As these laws are completely inducted into our economy, farmers, food-related corporations, advisor-turned agents and even consumers will surely celebrate India’s futuristic ways.

Another aspect, which has been repeatedly spoken about – as recently as December 18 – and by the country’s Prime Minister no less, has been a dramatic increase government procurement. PM Modi’s statements are backed by clear data that shows a repeated increase in procurement of important crops like wheat, paddy, grains like millet, and pulses. The notions of dismantling of the APMC-centric-MSP system are therefore misguided. Furthermore, this is a government that has actually understood the plight of the farmers, it has realised what needs to be done and has -within its tenure- initiated trends that will ensure availability as well as rising incomes. There are two clear examples – Pulses and Sugarcane – PM Modi rightly recalled a shortage of pulses in 2014 and how simple policy-making solved it. As far as sugarcane is concerned, that presents another case of innovative approach – In 2019-20, a whopping 195 crore litres of ethanol made from excess sugarcane was procured. This is linked with India’s aim of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol as per the National Biofuel Policy – 2018, which is in turn linked to India’s targets to usher in a cleaner, more sustainable future. No other government has introduced as many schemes that promote and present the central idea of a ‘New India’.

Going forward, the age-old divide between rural and urban will become increasingly irrelevant. A completely self-reliant rural economy, a supportive domestic market, world class quality standards and an advanced manufacturing + value chain model are all precursors of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. The country is on the right track, we are moving towards prosperity in leaps and bounds – it is now the question of how soon we reach the destination, how soon we make the ‘New India’ a reality.

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