By Harshal Deshpande
Nagpur: A Public outreach seminar on the three anti-farmer laws was organized by Bharatiya Maharashtra Rajya Kisaan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti, at Tilak Sabhagruha, Bajaj Nagar. The seminar is first of its kind in Nagpur, and was organized in an attempt to explain the laws to common people and help them understand how the laws are not just Anti-farmers but Anti-people in nature. The guest speakers for the seminar were noted farmer leaders like Vijay Javandiya from Shetkari Sanghatna, Dr. Harish Dhurat from Rashtriya Kashtakari Panchayat. Another distinguished speaker in the seminar who covered the legal aspect of these legislations was Mr. Tejinder Singh Raval, a Chartered Accountant by Profession, a law expert and an economist.
Impact of new laws explained
Dr. Harish Dhurat, leader of the workers at APMCs, spoke about how the new laws will affect everyone who is associated with farming. He also talked about the need for every citizen to support the Farmers’ agitation in whatever ways they can. Dr. Dhurat traced the legacy of Farmers’ movement from pre-independence era to modern contemporary times. “APMC is an institution that is run with mutual cooperation of Farmers, traders and the workers, helpers. These three parties run the institution efficiently. Now when the Government says that private players can buy outside the APMCs and they won’t be taxed on it, private players, let’s be specific- Ambani, Adani and others, will prefer buying the agricultural produce outside the market. Now we need to understand that there are several issues with the current working of APMC, but they need to be made more efficient. Instead what we have is creation and legitimization of another market run by corporates who don’t have to pay a tax and will be allowed to even have oral contracts without even following the due process. Anyone who has a Pan card, will be eligible to buy the produce from the farmers and no special registration will be required. In such case, the APMC market will gradually collapse, and all those who were dependent on the APMC will be rendered unemployed. The traders, the middlemen, and the workers will have to face the brunt of it along with the farmers.”, said Dr. Dhurat.
Mr. Vijay Javandiya contested the flying claims of Modi Government about how the laws benefit the farmers and how the farmer has been freed. Mr. Javandiya said, “Our Prime Minister, the ruling party and its cabals are making tall claims about how the laws are pro-farmers and how they will benefit the farmers. I only wish to ask themhow will the laws benefit farmers? What are the provisions for the benefit of farmers in these laws? And do these laws talk anything about offering Minimum Support Price (MSP)?If you cannot answer these questions in affirmative, on what basis do you claim that the laws are for the benefit of the farmers?”. Mr. Javandiya said that the real agenda behind bringing the laws was to benefit the corporate friends of the Government. “I do not see anything else in these laws. The farmers have clearly demanded a legal, legislative guarantee of MSP from the Government. If the Government as it claims to be is pro-farmer, why is it hesitating to bring a legislation guaranteeing the MSP? We do not get any answer to this from the Government or the spokespersons of the ruling party. What we get to hear on media, social media or editorial columns is that Farmers from Punjab are pampered.”, he said. He talked at length about how the Government and the ruling party is using all means to defame and delegitimize the nationwide agitation by branding farmers as Khalistanis, Naxals, Pakistanis, Maoists etc. He also talked how the Government is avoiding the demand of legalizing MSP. “One argument that Government is giving against guaranteeing MSP to the farmers is that it will lead to an additional fiscal burden of 1 lakh crore Rupees. They claim that they cannot afford doing that. One farmer leader gave a beautiful answer to this argument. He said that when the Government buys our produce at MSP, it will stock the produce and sell it. From the sale, it might incur some loss let’s say it might lose 1 lakh crore. He asked that can’t the Government bear loss of 1 lakh crore rupees for securing the Farmers? I feel that if the Government is spending more that 4-5 lakh crores every year for Government employees under Seventh pay commission and it has hiked the salaries of the Members of Parliament, why can’t the Government show a little bit of consideration for farmers and bear additional 1 lakh crore rupees fiscal amount in its budget.”, said Mr. Javandiya. He said that the Government has no agenda of making laws for Farmers, what they want to do is to withdraw Government support from the Farmers and leave them at the mercy of free market. “To be honest, there is no system in the world which is absolutely working on Free market economic model. Even the biggest epitome of free market capitalism- the West provides support to its farmers. They have Government intervention in agriculture. So why are we hell bent on leaving our farmers at the mercy of the so-called Free Market?”, he said.
Legal aspects of the new laws
Mr. Tejinder Singh Raval dwelt on the legal aspects of the new laws and explained how the laws violate the federal structure of the country. He explained the provisions of the laws point by point and said that certain provisions violate the Fundamental Right to Constitutional remedies. He expressed utter surprise and disappointment as to why the lawyer fraternity in the country has not raised this issue on legality aspect of the Farm laws.“I am surprised why the legal professional of this country haven’t raised this issue about the laws. As legal professionals, intellectuals, it was our duty to educate people about it, talk about it. I salute the farmers of this country who did this job of understanding the laws and articulating their position against it in so efficient manner.”, he said. He read Section 13 of Farmers produce trade and commerce (Promotion and Facilities) Act. The provision of this section takes away any right of legal remedy from the farmer and leaves him at the mercy of the bureaucracy and corporates. “This provision violates the Fundamental right to constitutional remedies. If you look at the language and wordings of this law you will realize how anti-democratic and authoritarian this law is. We already know how the laws were bulldozed and passed in the parliament. Any democratic Government won’t make such laws that take away someone’s human right to seek legal remedies.”, said Mr. Raval.He talked about other two laws- one related to contract farming and the other related to Essential commodities. “All of the provisions of these laws are not legally sound and won’t pass the testof legal and constitutional validity in the Supreme Court.”, said Mr. Raval. Mr. Raval also contested the claims made by Government that it has freed the farmers from APMCs and now they can sell their produce freely anywhere, anytime. “Only of about 7% farmers in India sell their produce in APMC. Rest of them are already selling it outside the mandis. So the farmers were already free to sell their produce outside the mandis. There is nothing new about it. What the Government has done is to try doing away with even the remaining 7% transactions within the mandis.”, said Mr. Raval.
Numerous citizens, civil society members, Trade Union and Farmer Activists were present in the program. Organizations, Political parties who supported the public outreach program and were involved in organizing it are- Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M), Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), Janata Dal- Secular (JD-S), Welfare Party of India, Republican Party of India, Republican Party of India (Secular), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Socialist Unity Centre of India-Communist (SUCI), All India Forward Bloc, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Red star, Shetkari Kamgar Paksha, AITUC, AISF, AIYF, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Shetkari Sanghtna, Rashtriya Muslim Bahujan Parishad, Rashtriya Kashtakari Panchayat, Republican Panthers and others.