Downside of loads


THE Centre just can’t stop gushing about the new farm laws, though the ground reality is anything but rosy. Days after the government released an e-booklet highlighting the ‘success stories’ of farmers who had benefited from these laws, a potato glut and the consequent crash in prices have been reported from Haryana’s markets. The 100-page e-booklet proudly mentions that ‘over 1,000 seed potato farmers across Punjab, northern Haryana and western UP are earning guaranteed 35 per cent margin above the cost’ under an agreement with a private company. In stark contrast, the new Acts have failed to insulate growers from the alarming fall in potato rates — down from Rs 3,400 to Rs 700 per quintal in just a month. There’s another irony: this is happening in a BJP-ruled state where the authorities are going all out to implement the laws and showcase their merits. Haryana was also among the first states in which the electronic trading portal eNAM (National Agriculture Market) was launched by the Centre in 2016 with the purpose of enabling farmers to sell their produce across the country. Four years on, eNAM remains a work in progress, hampered by lack of awareness and knowhow among the intended beneficiaries.

It seems the government is bent on staying put in its ivory tower. Late last month, PM Narendra Modi, in his Mann ki Baat address, narrated how a Maharashtra farmer, Jitendra Bhoi, used the new legislation to get his dues back from two traders. Ironically, Bhoi later came out in support of the protesting farmers and insisted that there should be a legal provision for ensuring payment at the MSP.

The proof of the pudding, of course, is in the eating. The much-touted laws are certainly not flawless if they don’t provide a shield to the farmers against market volatility and price fluctuations. Making growers go from pillar to post to sell their produce without offering them adequate storage facilities does not qualify as giving them ‘freedom’. Rather, it amounts to abdication of responsibility by the State. The new Acts are no panacea for all ills plaguing the agriculture sector. It’s high time this realisation dawns on the Centre, prompting course correction.

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