Pushing the government in the corner once again, the farmers of the country represented by the All India Kisan Sangharsh coordination Committee (AIKSCC) have penned down two draft bills, which they want to be enacted as legislations. The prime demands raised in the bills are absolute loan waivers for farmers and guaranteed remunerative minimum support prices for all crops.
Members of Parliament Raju Shetti and K K Ragesh would be presenting these two bills in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively as Private Members’ Bills.
The two demands are believed to be agreed upon at Kisan Mukti Sansad held by more than 190 farmer organizations who had come together to form the AIKSCC. The AIKSCC has the support of K K Ragesh whereas Raju Shetti from ‘Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana’ is one of the founding members of the umbrella body. The AIKSCC is expecting opposition parties to support the two legislators in the Parliament.
AIKSCC has demanded that the government must come clear on its commitment to address the ongoing agrarian crisis by supporting the two bills.
A cursory look at the draft bills makes it clear that the farmers seem to have had enough of the government’s assurances, and is a strong reflection of the angst that had been brewing up inside the farming community of the country over a very long time.
The draft bills prepared after nationwide deliberations make an interesting reading as they touch upon almost every aspect of the crisis that the farming community of India is undergoing.
The two draft bills have been prepared under different heads: The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018 and ‘The Farmers’ Right to Assured Remunerative Prices for Agricultural Produce Bill, 2018 or ‘Krishi Upaj Laabhkari Moolya Guarantee Bill.
The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018
The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018 demands a ‘one- time immediate loan waiver’, a mechanism which is aimed at providing an unconditional, instant relief to the farmers from all outstanding institutional. It further demands the return of assets that may have been confiscated by institutional or private lenders.
Acknowledging the distress caused to farmers by various natural calamities the bill also stresses on the need for creation of a ‘National Farmers’ Distress and Disaster Relief Commission’ at the centre as well as ‘State Farmers’ Distress and Disaster Relief Commissions’ to be established at state level. These Commissions will have the power to pro-actively recommend relief measures in distress affected areas and distress affected crops, and pass awards for the redressal of grievances of indebted farmers in various ways. The Bill also obligates the Government to institute effective disaster relief and crop insurance and promotion of low-cost ecological agriculture, and furthermore, seeks to provide special support to families affected by farmer suicide.
It also pushes for provision of entitling the comprehensive institutional credit facilities at subsidized interest rates, including lessee farmer, tenant farmer, share-cropper, woman farmer, tribal farmer, among others who have lost out on all such facilities in the past.
The Farmers’ Right to Assured Remunerative Prices for Agricultural Produce Bill, 2018
Other than demanding remunerative minimum support prices, ‘The Farmers’ Right to Assured Remunerative Prices for Agricultural Produce Bill, 2018’ or ‘Krishi Upaj Laabhkari Moolya Guarantee Bill calls for the Government to set up a robust system for estimation of cost of production for all agricultural produce through the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). It also seeks to expand its membership to include eleven members, including agricultural economics expert as Chairperson, apart from five farmer representatives and three agricultural experts as non-official members as well as bureaucrats.
Pointing towards the dubious performance by procurement agencies, the draft bill further demands to localize all procurement center’s, which would ensure a market for the farmers’ produce within their reach. It also includes the provision of organizing farmers into Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO), with sufficient infrastructure and financial capital to run their marketing enterprises including processed, value-added produce, apart from a whole lot of other demands and suggestions.
But will the bills see the light of the day?
It is important to remember here that only 14 Private Members’ Bills have been passed in the Parliament since Independence. It is also to be seen that how much support will the bill garner from the opposition parties and more importantly from how many?
Nonetheless, it will be difficult for the government to ignore the bills given that the entire nation had recently witnessed more than 50,000 farmers and forest dwellers march bare feet from Nasik to Mumbai which culminated in the formulation of the two demands in question.