New Delhi: As the farmers’ protest on the outskirts of Delhi completes three weeks, 10 senior economists have written a letter to Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, demanding the repeal of the Modi government’s three contentious farm laws.
In the letter, accessed by ThePrint, the economists say the laws need to be repealed as they are not in the interests of small and marginal farmers, and list out five reasons why.
“We believe that the Indian government should repeal the recent farm acts which are not in the best interests of the small and marginal farmers of the country, and about which a broad section of farmer organisations have raised very critical objections,” the letter states.
The economists have also said that while there is a need to improve agricultural marketing, these laws do not serve the purpose. “They are based on wrong assumptions and claims about why farmers are unable to get remunerative prices; about farmers not having freedom to sell wherever they like under the previously existing laws and about regulated markets not being in the farmers’ interests,” the economists have said in the letter.
Who are these economists?
The economists who have penned the letter are:
– Prof. D. Narasimha Reddy (retd), formerly of the University of Hyderabad;
– Prof. Kamal Nayan Kabra (retired), formerly of the Indian Institute of Public Administration and the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi;
– Prof. K.N. Harilal, professor (on leave) at Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, and member of the Kerala State Planning Board;
– Prof. Rajinder Chaudhary, former professor at M.D. University, Rohtak;
– Prof. Surinder Kumar of CRRID, Chandigarh;
– Prof. Arun Kumar, Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Chair Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi;
– Prof. Ranjit Singh Ghuman, professor of eminence at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and professor of economics at CRRID, Chandigarh;
– Prof. R. Ramakumar, NABARD Chair Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
They are joined by Vikas Rawal and Himanshu, both associate professors of economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning (CESP), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
‘5 reasons why laws are fundamentally harmful’
The economists listed five reasons why these laws are “fundamentally harmful” for small farmers.
– The laws, they say, undermine the role of state governments, which are far more accessible and accountable to farmers’ interests than the central government.
– The laws also create two markets with two rules — “a practically unregulated market in the ‘trade area’ side by side with a regulated market in APMC market yards, subject to two different acts, different regimes of market fees, and different sets of rules”.
– The laws create fragmented markets, and the experience in Bihar (which removed the APMC Act in 2006) shows that farmers have less choice of buyers and less bargaining power, resulting in significantly lower prices compared to other states.
– The laws bring in unequal players in contract farming, so farmers’ interests aren’t protected.
– And finally, the laws bring in concerns about domination by big agricultural businesses.
Amending the clauses in the new laws isn’t enough, the economists say, urging the government to withdraw them. They add that farmers’ genuine concerns should not be portrayed as their “being misled”.
“We strongly believe that it is not desirable to perpetuate the impression that farmers are misled by others, when they are raising valid and genuine concerns. The current impasse is not in anyone’s interests, and it is the responsibility of the government to proactively resolve it by addressing the farmers’ concerns,” the letter states.
The economists also call for the government to hold extensive consultations with farmer organisations and other stakeholders on what measures would really bring equitable and sustainable benefit to the farmers and the economy.
“It would be the truly democratic thing to do,” they say.