The recent agrarian reforms which set agriculture produce free from control of State are used to stage protest in the States of Punjab and Haryana. It is claimed that these are detrimental to the interest of farmers. Here are the farmers:
Farmer are free to sell the agricultural produce as they may choose. It may come as rude shock that until today every farmer was bound to sell it’s agricultural produce at the ‘specified market’ which was a euphemism of a close corporation consisting of politicians rather their proxies. The ‘Management’ of ‘Market’ had the power to dictate the price of the produce.
The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) was introduced as a reform to uplift the living of farmers but it subjugated them forcing them to make ‘illegal’ sale to outsiders without intervention of APMC. It was a cause of corruption and hardship for farmers. India had a unique institution called ‘Aadhatiya’ which was a mixture of middle man for sale and a money lander to finance agriculture operation. These Aadhatiya which were to be replaced by APMC but they became management of APMC. Three bills will pave the way for the sale of agricultural produce free from traders / Aadhatia/Dalal/Middle man. It will also protects to the farmers from market fluctuations through ‘Contract Farming’.
In most APMCs, buyers have to route all purchases through licenced Aadhatiyas(middlemen). These middlemen charge a commission for their “services” — many times, both from the buyer and seller. The Aadhatiya is also often a moneylender, supplying seeds, fertilizers and pesticides to farmers on credit. They, then, are forced to sell through him and settle their dues in perpetuity. Also, mandi fees ranges from 0.5% to 5% on the value of the sale, while varying across states and commodities. (Here is a good article explaining the issues in detail.)
Here is Congress leader Kapil explaining the the Dalal or Middleman at work:
The three Bills named as Agriculture Reforms Bill 2020 Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Price Assurance and Contract Bill for Agricultural Services and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill were enacted as Ordinance on 5 June 2020. Continue reading
Most fruits and vegetables are largely unfit for human consumption due to their high chemical content.
Pesticides continue to be used recklessly in the fields of Punjab.
Within the state the worst affected is the southwestern belt known as the Malwa region comprising the districts of Bathinda, Mansa, Moga, Faridkot, Sangrur, Barnala and Ferozepur. The black soil in the region is suited for cotton cultivation.
However, the crop was susceptible to attacks from American bollworm. To check these attacks, farmers would sometimes spray the crop with pesticides — as many as 35 times a year. This took a toll on the whole ecosystem in the region and experts widely concur that the polluted soil and ground water have significantly contributed to the high incidence of cancer in the region.
Situation improved marginally in 2005 with the introduction of Bt cotton when the annual number of sprays on Bt cotton came down from 35 to five. However, the pests ran faster than the pesticide. And Bt cotton became vulnerable to a new pest called mealy bug and the number of sprays has now risen to 30 times per year. Not only Bt Cotton, state’s horticulture produce, especially its vegetables, is equally notorious for high chemical content. A farmer from Jalandhar, preferring not to be named, said, “Brinjal is most susceptible to pest attacks. The chemical that we spray to ‘save’ brinjal, keeps the vegetable toxic even after 60 days of the spray. This is one reason you will never find brinjal being cooked in a farmer’s house in Punjab.
The last line is unbelievable. How can a human being sell poison to another? How much more shall we stoop in our greed? As a farmer I would like to change the crop rather than do this or not to grow anything at all.
It is also a pointer to the myth that genetically modified (GM) cotton or for that matter any GM plants have better resistance to bugs. New bugs come up everyday and learn to live with them. Why can’t we invent something reasonable?
© Sandeep Bhalla