Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The LIEs as LAW-2: Analysis of the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation Act, 2020)

The three laws on farm produce passed recently in an unparliamentary way are the best examples of camouflaging the harm as help, detriment as welfare and liberation of trader as that of farmer. 

1. Lie on Constitutional List

The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, (FPTCPF Act) directly deals with “Farmer’s Produce” which is an exclusive state subject under the cover of a lie called ‘Food Stuff” which is an entry in Concurrent List. TheLie as Law No. 1

2. Price Support

Aims and objectives also says that system ‘which facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channel’ but nowhere the Act says anything to assure remunerative price. Most important part of this Act is that it nowhere mentions “Minimum Support Price”, its guarantee, enforceability, imposition of duty on trader to purchase the farm produce not below the MSP and penalty if MSP is not maintained. The bigLie as Law No.2

Also Read: Hold farm laws or we will, SC to Centre

3. Hiding lie under definition of ‘trade area’

The liberated farmer cannot trade according to definition of ‘trade area’ under this Act. It does not even allow as first preference. It is excluded from the ‘trade area’ totally. But Centre says the state market yards exist. TheLie as Law No.3 under this FPTCPF Act. See the definition of ‘trade area’ under S 2(m):

(m) “trade area” means any area or location, place of production, collection and aggregation including––(a) farm gates;(b) factory premises;(c) warehouses;(d) silos;(e) cold storages; or(f) any other structures or places,from where trade of farmers’ produce may be undertaken in the territory of India but does not include the premises, enclosures and structures constituting––

(i) physical boundaries of principal market yards, sub-market yards

and market sub-yards managed and run by the market committees formed

under each State APMC Act in force in India; and

(ii) private market yards, private market sub-yards,direct marketing

collection centres, and private farmer-consumer market yards managed bypersons holding licenses or any warehouses, silos, cold storages or other structures notified as markets or deemed markets under each State APMCAct in force in India;

To clear doubts, if any, about this see the definition (l)

2(l) “State APMC Act” means any State legislation or Union territory legislation in force in India, by whatever name called, which regulates markets for agricultural produce in that State;

Also Read: Farewell to Welfare of Farmers & Most Obedient to Market Forces

4. Lie on Freedom

In the aims and objectives, the FPTCPF Act says that it is ‘to provide for the creation of an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the

freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmersproduce’, the word ‘farmer’ just an eye wash is this Act removes the ecosystem of state supported APMC small farmer but facilitate the trader to break the state cover and exploit the farmer. A wolf is liberated to deal with goats. TheLie as LawNo. 4.

Lies on Liberation

5. Lie of Liberation farmers

There are series of lies on the aspect of liberation and freedom and the Government’s commitment to them.  Definition of ‘trader’ reveals the lie that ‘this law liberates the trader’.

(n) “trader” means a person who buys farmers’ produce by way of inter-Statetrade or intra-State trade or a combination thereof, either for self or on behalf of one ormore persons for the purpose of wholesale trade, retail, end-use, value addition,processing, manufacturing, export, consumption or for such other purpose.

This is the reality. The rulers say that it is for liberation of farmers, but this section is clear that it is giving freedom. They say exactly opposite of what sections say. TheLie as LawNo 5

Also Read: Three farm laws : Reliance reiterates it has no plans for contract farming

6. Farmer is liberated by ‘word’

Section 3 adds word ‘farmer’ without any support for farmer to store or stock or move the produce to anywhere to exercise the so called freedom. TheLie as Law No. 6

3. Subject to the provisions of this Act, any farmer or trader or electronic trading and transaction platform shall have the freedom to carry on the inter-State or intra-State trade andcommerce in farmers’ produce in a trade area.

7. An open lie on liberty of farmer

With Section 4, the Act comes out of cover and talks only about traders’ liberty. You will not find word ‘farmer’ here. This contradicts the lies of the Ministers on this point also. TheLie as Law No. 7

4. (1) Any trader may engage in the inter-State trade or intra-State trade of scheduled farmers’ produce with a farmer or another trader in a trade area:

Provided that no trader, except the farmer producer organisations or agricultural cooperative society, shall trade in any scheduled farmers’ produce unless such a trader has a permanent account number allotted under the Income-tax Act, 1961 or such other documentas may be notified by the Central Government.

4(2) The Central Government may, if it is of the opinion that it is necessary and expedient in the public interest so to do, prescribe a system for electronic registration for a trader,modalities of trade transaction and mode of payment of the scheduled farmers’ produce in atrade area.

8. Centre says the APMCs will survive and flourish

Though the Centre is repeatedly assuring that APMCs will stay, MSP will be guaranteed etc, the provisions of three Acts, especially FPTCPF Act openly inflict fatal blow on APMCs. They will not survive as alternatives of farmers choice of ‘liberty’ to sell. Flourishing of APMCs will be out of question because the provisions ensured them to perish.

Section 6. No market fee or cess or levy, by whatever name called, under any State APMC Actor any other State law, shall be levied on any farmer or trader or electronic trading and transaction platform for trade and commerce in scheduled farmers’ produce in a trade area. And Centre says the APMC Acts will survive.

With this law, its mandatory that State laws will not work, there will  be none to pay any fee, and APMCs will collapse making all those employed there jobless, which is not contribution of Corona Pandemic, but the Parliamentary laws came out of pandemonium.TheLie as Law No. 8

Also Read: Farmers to discuss with Union ministers on Wednesday

The Freedom at Trade Area

To understand this complex impossibility, one has to read Section 4 and Section 11 together.

4. (1) Any trader may engage in the inter-State trade or intra-State trade of scheduled farmers’ produce with a farmer or another trader in a trade area:

11. (1) Whoever contravenes the provisions of section 4 or the rules made thereunder shall be liable to pay a penalty which shall not be less than twenty-five thousand rupees but which may extend up to five lakh rupees, and where the contravention is a continuing one,further penalty not exceeding five thousand rupees for each day after the first day during

which the contravention continues.

9.  Offering Immunity in Gold plate to Corporates

Interestingly, the Corporates and other traders are not only given liberty or freedom etc, which farmers are practically denied, but also the law offered total immunity from any liability. Here lies the real freedom of traders. One has to read this Section and understand the lines in between also,

Section 13. No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the CentralGovernment or the State Government, or any officer of the Central Government or the StateGovernment or any other person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or of any rules or orders made thereunder.

This is the hidden lie. TheLie as Law No. 9

10. Overriding Lie

Still, if any body has any doubt or soft corner for the Government’s avowed welfare interest towards farmers, section 14 clears it. It categorically gives this Act overriding power to subjugate the State laws which have contradictory clauses. Each state law has contradictory clause. The heading of the section is ‘Act to have overriding effect’. It reads:

14. The provisions of this Act shall have effect, notwithstanding anything in consistent therewith contained in any State APMC Act or any other law for time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law for the time being in force. TheLie as Law No. 10

11.  Taking away legal right

The farmers are ‘liberated’ from courts of law also. The jurisdiction of civil courts was removed. And Revenue Babus are empowered with unlimited discretion and immunity to decide the disputes between trader and farmer. The unending delay and ever-increasing burden of litigation makes the people to believe that this is a great relief, and the best reform. Considering the notoriety of corruption of Babus of this class, giving discretion to them adversely affect the farmers and help the power dominant traders depending on their manipulative strategies. This power follows the failure of alternative dispute resolution methods legalized in this Act. The so called conciliation also do not help farmers. The Law as Lie No. 11

Section 15. No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceedings in respectof any matter, the cognizance of which can be taken and disposed of by any authorityempowered by or under this Act or the rules made thereunder.

12. The Objective Lie

Some more appealing lies are beautifully drafted in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of this Act.

It says:

“Agriculture provides most of the world’s food and fabrics. Keeping in view the importance of agriculture, the States have enacted the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Acts to develop market-yard as market place and to provide regulationon marketing practices of notified agricultural produce. However, the regulatory provisions hindered the freedom of choice-based marketing and also the inflow of investment in development of alternative markets and marketing infrastructure.

The Government did not disclose any data or evidence to prove this conclusion. Who told the Centre that farmers suffered loss of choice, who agitated for the ‘freedom’ which was granted to them unasked? This unsubstantiated statement could be a big lie. The Law as Lie No. 12

Second objective clearly shows that Centre has no authority to make law on this subject. It says:

2. The Government of India had circulated the Model APMC Act, 2003 and the ModelAgricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitating) Act, 2017 to theStates to reform their APMC Acts with a view to increase competitiveness in agriculturesupply chain, provide freedom to farmers to sell their produce through alternative marketing

channels to get the fair prices through the market framework under the State legislations.However, the States have not embraced the reforms in a uniform manner, and the lack of homogeneity in the laws has been obstructing a competitive pricing environment for the farmers and is becoming an impediment to the evolution of a modern trading system.

Also Read: Farmers should end protest

The Centre knows that it has no authority to make law and that this is state subject, that was why they circulated model law to States. States chose not to respond, as they already have laws to secure the interests of small farmers or they might have felt it is not necessary. Without ascertaining their views or consulting the states or farmers the Centre came out with these three laws, openly misusing the wrong entry in 33 of Concurrent List of Schedule VII of the Constitution of India, ‘food stuff’. The Big ‘Constitutional’ Lie. This objective also hides the lie about APMCs, which is considered as impediment of the farmers and the lies now being spread that APMCs would exist along with the alternative market. The Law as Lie No.13, consists of two big lies.

14 Agriculture for Industry

Third objective statement discloses the intention of the Centre that it desires to consider Agriculture as more a business linked with agro-industry and less as food security or helping the small farmers in securing MSP. The Law as Lie No. 14.

3. Agriculture not only meets the food security requirements of the country, but also provides raw material to the agro-industry which culminates into job creation and earning of foreign exchange through export. Directly linking the agro-industry with the farmers shortens the supply chain, reduces the marketing cost and post-harvest losses and most importantly enhances farmers’ income.

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.


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