Cooperatisation, not Corporatisation is the panacea. [A comment on Agriculture Bills]

India is witnessing another protest, this time it’s the farmers. Farmers are up against the three bills of the present BJP government. The Government through these bills claim to “free” the farmers but what they are actually doing is leaving them free for the big sharks.

The very essence of democracy is participation, the way the government issued ordinances and hurriedly converted it to bill raises eyebrows. The Farm Unions have complained of not taking them into consideration, the experts have complained of sidestepping the mechanisms of discussing, debate and deliberate.

The biggest reason for farmer’s inability to trust the Indian state is the continued indifference and poor record of fulfilling a promise by the administration. The lack of trust is now getting combined with the arrogance of the State. The least that should be done is to keep all stakeholders in the loop and make rules as transparent as possible, putting the onus on government to completely uphold commitments which we have seen getting violated multiple times since independence.

The government had claimed many benefits of these bills, those can be easily read from any government sites. I will be dealing here some concerns these Bills raise and attempt for a way forward.

1.The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020:

The Government says farmers now are free to sell their produce wherever and to whomsoever (and not only to APMCs) they wish.APMCs were thought to be more informative, democratic and legal and were introduced as a measure to safeguard farmer’s interest. It however failed and middlemen arose and took a large share of profits. Cartels manipulated the market and vultured on farmer’s vulnerability. Yes, there were issues with it but opening the agricultural sector to private enterprise is not the solution. Middlemen would again populate the space between the farmers and the market giants. The balance of power is certainly against the farmers. Legislating Farmer Cooperatives could have safeguarded farmer’s interest.Farmers(more than half of the farmers are small and marginal) will face hardships taking his produce to a more profitable space, bargain or negotiate. One of the demands of the farmers protesting in Delhi is to legally ensure a Minimum Support Price as a security tool.

2.The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020:

The second one is related to Contract Farming, heaven for lawmakers and the contracting companies and hell for long term sustainability of farmers and his farms. The contracts would be signed to avoid any misunderstanding. There is always a scope of improvements and humane laws here so that the power imbalance doesn’t drag the farmers unnecessary into legal troubles which could in all capacity drain the farmer’s savings and ruin his further opportunities. Claims are that it would bring modernization, multiply the produce and rocket up the farmer’s income. Other aspects which should be accounted in this bill are the possible overexploitation of the said farm and resources for more profit, what would the otherwise engaged workforce do in case if the land is also taken on contracts, the land holdings in India are small and discrete and not continuous which are not feasible for mechanised farming with modern equipment, infrastructure for farming like a proper irrigation system is only in some areas and accessed by only a few sections of farmers. A majority of the farmers are small and marginal doing subsistence farming, seasonally unemployed and disguisedly employed

In case of any mishappenings regarding the amount or quality of the produce, it is farmers would be at loosing end.

3.The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020:

Under the amended Essential Commodities Act, hoarding is being legalised now as Stocking. Earlier there used to be limited. This is at the time when the Government has more than enough of stocks of food grain. I could only wish that they admit their incapability and manhandling in disbursing it to the needy ones. Most of the farmers cannot even afford to store. It is only the wealthy farmers and the Corporates who are capable of doing so. Hoardings, artificial shortages and manipulation market mechanisms cannot be completely ruled out. Consumers and farmers both would be at the receiving end if any such things happen.

Purchasing Capacity of the public would be compromised and nothing would be worse than that coming out of a goverment Bill.

The Way Forward:

#PROUT’s philosophy of Cooperated Coordination is to be reflected in the agricultural policy too:

-Given the account of the condition of agriculture and farmers in India, PROUT firstly advocates for transforming the uneconomical holding into economical holding through phase-wise socialisation of land. A sea of opportunities awaits beyond individual ownership of farmlands. Cooperation is the key to make the best out of the continued division and fragmentation of the landholdings. Cooperation is the mantra to survive and prosper together.

-PROUT offers almost a readymade policy solutions to the various present problems related to the agricultural produce, its sell and forward linkage in form of Farmer Cooperative, Producer Cooperatives and Consumer Cooperatives. This would safeguard the interest of both farmers and consumers and also address the issue of disguised employment which otherwise used to engage a lot of workforces only in agricultural production without any significant results.

– Agrico and Agro-based industrial setup would take care of the seasonal unemployment of farmers and also the plaguing problem of unemployment.

-The necessary infrastructure needed for farming must be provided by the state. Government is to provide other necessary supports in form of public goods, and if not done so it could be managed by Cooperatives.

–Industrial Status to Agriculture: –

-Instead of an arbitrary declaration of price and price fluctuations due to market ups and downs the price of produce would be calculated keeping into account all direct and indirect factors like a seed, fertilisers, water, other resources, land labour, capital and family labour, know-hows, supervisory costs, maintenance costs, insurance, depreciation etc.

-These are to be calculated not for a country or a state as a whole but for a specific bioregions/ agro-climatic zones.PROUT proposes for 44 such units in India and 246 for the world.

-PROUT’s policy is of increasing the purchasing capacity of everyone; in such a scenario one cannot even think of a farmer’s suicide or a hand to mouth living of the farming community.

-The essential minimum requirements is guaranteed in PROUT.

It appears that the government sees Corporatization of Agri sector as the only historical solution. The core chronic problems still remain overlooked. The Progressive Utilisation Theory presents a holistic solution. Agriculture is to be developed in accordance with the principles of economic democracy, decentralisation, balanced economy, and other relevant factors. In essence, PROUT advocates a revolution in the agrarian sector based upon cooperative, integrated farming, using the most advanced biological techniques. Agriculture is the basis of an economy and as such it is to be given a very high status.

References :

1.PROUTIST ECONOMICS by Shri P.R.Sarkar.

2.PROUT IN A NUTSHELL by Shri P.R.Sarkar.

Author:
Varun Sarkar
PROUTist Universal

One thought on “Cooperatisation, not Corporatisation is the panacea. [A comment on Agriculture Bills]

  • December 6, 2020 at 4:25 am
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    In this way, cruel behavior towards farmers will one day take the country to the abyss…. Ultimately, the farmers will have to give their rights. Varun, you have done a very good analysis….

    Reply

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