Several economists in a letter to Union Agriculture Minister NS Tomar have expressed serious concern over the recent farm Acts. They agreed with the need for improvement in the agri marketing system but claimed these Acts did not serve that purpose as the laws were based on wrong assumptions.
The economists gave five reasons why the three Acts were fundamentally harmful for the small farmers.
First Reason: They said, overriding states’ role in regulating agricultural markets was a flawed approach because the local machinery was more accessible and accountable to the farmers.
Second Reason: The Acts created a practically unregulated market in the ‘trade area’ parallel with the APMC market yards. While there were mechanisms in regulated APMC markets to prevent market manipulation, there was none in the unregulated ‘trade areas’.
Third Reason: Daily auctions at the APMC market yards set the benchmark prices. Without these, fragmented markets could pave the way for local monopolies, as in Bihar after the repeal of its APMC Act in 2006.
Fourth Reason: The huge asymmetry between the small farmers and companies would lead to unwritten arrangements with no recourse for farmers.
Fifth Reason: The consolidation of agri value chains would lead to the “get-big-or-get-out’’ dynamic as in other countries, pushing out the small farmers, small traders and local agri-businesses. Therefore, amending a few clauses would not be enough to address farmers’ concerns.
Among the signatories are Prof Rajinder Chaudhary and Prof Surinder Kumar (ex MDU, Rohtak), Prof RS Ghuman (Prof of Eminence, GNDU, Amritsar), Prof Kamal Nayan Kabra (ex Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi), Prof D Narasimha Reddy (ex Univ of Hyderabad), Prof KN Harilal, (Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram,) Prof Arun Kumar (Institute of Social Sciences), Prof R Ramakumar (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) and Prof Vikas Rawal and Prof Himanshu (JNU). — TNS