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BKU protests are ill-informed, politically motivated

The ongoing agitation by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) in Punjab and Haryana is baffling; for the stir leaders are protesting against the revolutionary ordinances that the Narendra Modi government announced a few weeks ago to address the issue of farm distress. Calling these ordinances “anti-farmer” is absolutely incorrect.

The protesters want to roll back the Farmers’ Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance & Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

As we <a href="https://indianarrative.com/economy/big-bang-reforms-fm-opens-up-farm-sector-2034.html"><strong>mentioned earlier</strong></a>, the government wants to deregulate the farm sector. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, for instance, reduces the harshness of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, which was formulated in the era of food grain shortages. Long ago, it became archaic—and a bane of agriculturists.

The proposed ordinance frees them from the draconian features of the Essential Commodities Act.

Similarly, the Farmers’ Produce Trade &amp; Commerce (Promotion &amp; Facilitation) Ordinance is intended to end the tyranny of Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs).

Against this backdrop, the statements of protesters, and those of the politicians supporting them, sound hollow. BKU’s Haryana unit president Gurnam Singh recently said, “The voice of farmers has to be raised, we want the Centre to withdraw these anti-farmer ordinances, which will destroy the peasants and leave them at the mercy of market forces.”

BKU (Lakhowal) general secretary Harinder Singh Lakhowal, <a href="https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/ludhiana/bku-takes-strict-stance-against-mps-over-farm-ordinances-139664"><strong><em>the Tribune</em> reported</strong></a>, “has announced that MPs extending their support to three farm-related ordinances or abstaining from session when the legislative measures were put on floor of the two houses of Parliament would not be allowed to enter the villages in Punjab.”

Supporting them are Congress leaders. Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said in a statement: “These ordinances are against the interests of farmers. If the government wants to implement them, then it should ensure that no purchases are made below MSP [minimum support price]. The government could bring in a fourth ordinance separately to provide a clear provision that if any agency buys the crop of the farmer below the MSP, then legal action will be taken against it.”

But the Central government has not said that it would be doing away with the MSP mechanism. Besides, measures like relaxations in the Essential Commodities Act and abolition of APMCs have been favored by the government economic experts during Congress rule.

Economic Survey 2012-13, for example, said, “In order to bring about reforms in the (organized marketing) sector, a model Agricultural Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) (APMC) Act was prepared in 2003. Though the process of market reforms has been initiated by different state governments through amendments in the present APMC Act on the lines of Model Act, many of the states are yet to adopt the Model Act uniformly. It is therefore necessary to complete the process of market reforms early in order to provide farmers an alternative competitive marketing channel for transaction of their agricultural produce at remunerative prices. Development of an agricultural marketing infrastructure is the foremost requirement for the growth of a comprehensive and integrated agricultural marketing system in the country.”

The three ordinances will go a long way helping the farmer. The protests against them are either the result of ignorance or politics..