FARMERS RIGHT AND FOOD SECURITY LAWS IN INDIA: AN OVERVIEW
Author: Shalini Jha, II year of B.A.,LL.B. from School of Law, KIIT Deemed to be University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India
Co-author: Ananya Sinha, I year of B.B.A.,LL.B. from School of Law, KIIT Deemed to be University, Bhubaneswar,Odisha,India
In economic and livelihood activity farmers are the most active ones. They produce crops that include all agricultural commodities like poultries, fisheries, vermicomposting, sericulture, etc. Effective and improved knowledge of grains and reforms for agriculture has been shown in the Green Revolution. India has created agriculture policy success in wheat. Several acts and rights have been covered up for farmers' security. This paper aims to highlight farmers' rights and food security in India. The second section of this paper covers transitional practices of farming in modern India and challenges to food security. The government initiated a few steps to check up on farmers' security and remuneration. The third section of this paper covers the condition of farmers in the current situation. India’s 1.3 billion populations are engaged in agriculture and they rely on it as their source of living, but the distressing fact is that agriculture contributes only 20% to India’s GDP. Despite some stagnation, during the later modern era, the independent Republic of India was able to develop a comprehensive agricultural program.The year 2020 marked a significant change in the outlook of the government towards the problems which resulted in the passing of the agricultural acts which are popularly termed as ‘Farm bills’ which are used as a drive in the nation with people favoring them as well as with a section of people showcasing dissent towards the bills and it resulted in a nationwide protest. Food Security is a requisite for every country because of the various factors such as controlling the prices, economic growth and it provides a great boost to the agriculture sector. Food Security has been perturbed on several grounds in the recent past such as the climate change which as a whole affects the agriculture, overpopulation, corruption in the system at the lower levels which adds to the issue, lack of access to the resources are some of the factors behind the disruption in the food security in our country. This paper takes a subjective look at innovations and better approaches to agriculture practice. It also places the statistics on both the aspect of farmers' rights and bills as well as food security.[i]
KEYWORDS: agricultural economy, farmer’s right, food security, farm bills, food mechanism
“The simple hearth of the small farm is the true centre of our universe”
The most vital aspect of the functioning of the country is the smooth generation and distribution of the food. It becomes even more essential to deliberate about the rights of the people who make the entire process so accessible for the country and the shape of the food security laws in our country. Farmer’s rights and food security laws are the very pillar on which the operation of the food mechanism in our country stands. Farmers right refers to the rights which the farmers have to save, to use, exchange and to sell the produce and the seeds, it also includes the rights of the farmers to be appropriately recognized and honoured.They should be supported in all ways for their immense contribution to the global economy in terms of plant genetic resources and development of the various commercial varieties of the plants. It also expresses their rights to be included in the decision- making process which is related to the genetic resources of the crop.
According to the ‘Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmer’s Rights Act’, 2001, it states that the specific right which is granted to the farmers which includes their Right of access to seeds which allows them to sow, save and sell their farm produce which also includes different varieties of seeds. Farmer’s being the face of the entire agricultural economy of the country need a certain amount of protection and this comes in the form of rights which are entitled to them by the government.
1. Right of sharing: The benefit which states that the breeders and the legal entities which also includes the farmers who provide Plant Genetic Resources to the plant breeders for the purpose of developing the new varieties are entitled to receive the commercial gains from the vehicles which are registered.
2. The Right to Compensation: This act states that the seeds sold to the farmers, if they did not perform according to the expectations then they are entitled to claim compensation from the plant breeders.
3. The Right to receive reward and considerable recognition: Farmers should receive recognition for their contribution towards the conservation which provides them the necessary encouragement.
4. The Right of protection of farmers from innocent infringement: This is one right which gives them a chance to prove their innocence in front of the court. This right was enacted keeping in mind about the poor literacy rates of farmers.
5. The Right of exemption: This is regarding the registration fees related to the registration of the different plant varieties and also includes other services as well. The farmer’s right in India is a subject of utmost deliberation as there are a number of farmers who are still not aware of their rights and are subjected to utmost cruelty at the hands of the big players in the food industry.
Food security in India
Food Security as stated by the United Nation Committee means that all the people, at all the times should have at least physical, economic and social access to hygienic, sufficient and nutritious food which in some ways meets the preferences of the people and which is necessary for an active and healthy life. Food Security is based on the three elements that are food accessibility, availability and utilization.
Historical aspect and evolution
Food Security in India has a tragic history, the Bengal Famine in the year 1949 which resulted in the loss of nearly 2 to 3 million lives due to starvation. The frequent droughts which happened during the colonial rule resulted in the loss of several lives. The nation has suffered several shocks in terms of food availability. Food Security is linked to various other factors of the economy including the prices of the food, agricultural growth and many other important mechanisms which forms the backbone of the economy.
Linkage of farmer’s rights and food security
Farmers' Rights and the need for food security laws in India is a vis-à-vis issue which requires necessary deliberation as it forms a cornerstone of our food economy. The entire farm economy depends on these rights and laws which focus on the people who feed the entire country. Their contribution to the global food economy is immense and it becomes important that their rights are protected and their needs are attended to. Farmers' rights provide a valuable source of information regarding their difficulties. Protection of farmers' rights and taking initial steps for promotion should be the key objectives. Farmers' rights should be seen in a much broader perspective as a collective theme.
The basis of farmers' rights is a rich variety of medicinal plants, seeds, and trees. Genetic resources for agriculture are the basic customary rights of the farmers. Farmer's traditional knowledge of the correct usage of plant resources is farmers' free choice. The development of legislation can be meant for implementing and securing farmers' rights. Sustainable and conservative use of crop resources with greater financial support should go together with traditional knowledge of farmers about crops and food.
National food security act, 2013
The most recent food security act which aimed at figuring out the entire cause for the farmers was enacted i.e. The National Food Security Act, 2013 which brought a change in the entire concept of food security laws in India. The act turned around the concept of food security which was seen as a measure of welfare for the people to make it their right. The act entitled 75% and 50% of the rural and urban population to legally receive food grains at the subsidized rate under the targeted public distribution system. It gave certain rights to the women in order to empower them in the matters of the food security of their household. The enactment of the act showcased the necessity of the food security laws in India, not only at a domestic but on an individual level where it was kept in mind that every individual has access to healthy and nutritious food. The grim situation of not having access to food was to an extent started to change.[ii]
This Act was enacted by Manmohan Singh Indian National Congress which is led by the UPA government. This act was signed on 10 September 2013. Some of the programs of the national food security act are the mid-day meal scheme, the Public Distribution system, and integrated child development services. These schemes are 75% in the rural region and 50% of it in the urban region. Meeting the domestic demand as well as individual needs with adequate food quantities and prices is food security. Criticism of food security comes from both accusations of political motivation and fiscal irresponsibility.
The national food security bill has been highly contentious. Some of the features of this act are:-
1. Households identification- In the targeted Public Distribution System, the state identifies the households.
2. Subsidized prices available- food grains will be available at rupees 3/2 flash one per kg for rice-wheat and coarse grains for 3 years under Target Public Distribution. After that minimum support price will be linked to the subsidized prices.
3. State coverage- Central Government covers the state by using NSS household consumption survey data.
4. Entitlement and coverage under the Targeted Public Distribution System.
5. Nutritional support and Maternity Benefit- Rupees 6000 will be given to pregnant women and higher nutritional norms for up to 6-year-old malnourished children.
Traditional practices of farming in modern era
Farmers have their traditional practices of growing crops for food. Over the years despite modern equipment and technology, few methods of traditional farming are still being used.
1. Agroforestry-It is one of the oldest farming methods used to date. Multiple products and staple food crops can be grown from this method. This is useful in excess sunlight, wind, and controlling the temperature. This technique is useful in reducing soil erosion.
2. Crop rotation- Doctor Vandana Sharma founded this concept and this technique results in maximizing yields, minimizing the use of chemicals, and weed development.
3. Intercropping /mixed crops-Same land is used for cultivating mixed crops and is grown in multiple rows.
4. Polyculture-Faster sowing of seeds and better yield takes place by using this technique. Usage of chemicals and diseases can be controlled by this method.
5. Water harvesting -It is used for residential purposes and helps in the sustainable use of potable water. Water is stored either in a deep pit well or on rooftop houses.
Challenges to food security
1. Overpopulation- India is the second-most populous country in the world. As the consumption is more, production is to be relatively higher. Poverty is also a cause due to malnutrition.
2. Migration- People are migrating from the rural area to the urban areas in search of better health and hygiene and facilities which are lacking in slums and rural areas.
3. Climate change- Climate change causes trade disruption but also impacts livestock, farmers, and production output. Farming practices are difficult in high temperatures or high rainfall.
4. Unmonitored schemes- Proper implementation of Nutrition programs should be monitored.
5. Irregular opening of ration shops- Poor quality grains consumed by the buyers affect the health of the people.
6. Lack of coordination- Nutrition food with reaching out to poor people who can't afford to buy should be coordinated. Intersectoral coordination should be maintained between Ministries.
7. Biofuel- The biofuel market setup covers up a large area of land reducing the area for the growth of food crops.
Government initiatives to ensure food security
1. Buffer stock- government Procures stock of wheat and rice food corporation. Deficit areas and people who can't afford to get help from this.
2. MSP (minimum support price) necessity-A Pre announced price by the government for farmers' crops for raising production every year.
3. Public distribution system-This system was introduced in June 1997. The governments targeted and applied this principle in all areas.
4. Cooperative role- In Southern and western parts of the country shops are being set up within a cooperative society to set low prices.
Conditions of farmers
The condition of farmers in India has undergone changes in a very phased manner. The very backbone of the country i.e. the Indian agricultural economy has undergone dramatic metamorphosis for nearly seventy-five years from Independence. The country has been in a situation of not being reliant in terms of production of food to being a self-sufficient nation in the food sector. The farmers acted a key role in all these changing times but the condition of farmers in India has not undergone numerous changes. The condition of farmers in India has not seen a significant change; we still have to hear about farmer suicides because they are not able to pay off their loans. The situation of low income received by the farmers still exists, all these are some of the reasons which depicts the indigent picture of the complexities which the farmers have to face on a daily basis.
These difficulties have been existing since ages and the schemes and plans of the government have not been efficient in discovering a long term solution to these problems which are looming on the agricultural productivity of the nation. These also act as a burden for the farmers of the country. The grim situation of the agricultural economy can be perceived from the condition of farmers in India.
The farmer suicide in India which is always at a rise because of the inability of the farmers to repay their loans is one of the several reasons which reflect the disheartening situation of the farmers. There has been conflicting reasons for these deaths, claims have addressed the anti-farmer laws, failure to pay the debt, unexpected failure of the crop growth and various mental health issues as the reason behind the extremely high farmer suicide rate figures in India.
The decreasing area of the land allocated for agricultural purposes adds to the misery as the land-holdings of the farmers decrease which reduces the farm produce. The small land-holdings force the farmers to sell off their produce locally and they are not able to get fair prices for their produce.
According to the report released by the Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households and Land and Holdings of Households in Rural India, 2019 reveals the distressing data about the low income of the farmers, and the average monthly income which is received by them from different other sources of per agricultural household in July 2018 and 2019 brings out to be only Rs. 10,218 which computed according to paid-out approach states that the per day income of the household of the farm is just Rs. 277 which is not much from what is received by the farmers from the employment scheme.
The three farm bills which were Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmer’s (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act,2020 aimed at giving the farmers an opportunity to get themselves engaged in the trade of their produce outside the physical markets which is mentioned under the various state Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Acts. This act would have overruled these state acts and aimed to promote hassle-free inter and intra state trade. The act also proposed an e-platform for trading of the produce directly. The organizations which can engage in this trading could be partnership firms, societies and companies. The main rationale behind the act was to allow the farmers to trade outside these state designated APMC and prohibit the state government from levying any taxes. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 focused on providing the farmers with a proper framework which will serve as a guide for them to enter into contract farming, giving them an opportunity to enter into agreement with the buyer on the onset of the sowing season and they have a chance to sell off their produce pre-determined prices. The act allows entering into contract with entities known as ‘sponsors’, who can enter into contract and agree on mutual issues such as fodder, seed etc.
The agreements are valid for one cropping season and prices for the produce is also added as an important clause in the agreement. The most important part of the act which was an issue of contention and to a certain extent a reason for nationwide protest was the absence of the Minimum Support Price which was mentioned in the act. The act also provided the three level dispute settlement mechanisms. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act,2020 aimed at restricting the authority of the government with respect to certain key factors of agriculture related to production, supply and the distribution of the produce.
The act removed certain important products like pulses, cereals etc. from the essential commodity list. The government set up stock limits for the produce according to the market price. The price was determined according to the rise in the market price. It somewhat removed the involvement of the private players in the market and gave freehand to the three essential components of agriculture i.e. production, supply and distribution.
The acts were met with severe criticism across the nation which eventually led to it being repealed by the central government. The criticism was on the basis of several provisions of the act which includes the uneasiness among the farmers in northern states of Punjab and Haryana was about the deconstructing of Minimum Support Prices (MSP), the farmers feared about the big corporate dictating the prices and the fear of the farmers of getting loss for their agricultural produce. The proposal to regulate the trade given by the central government was not well received by the farmers and their issue of contention was that the laws had no provision for regulating the traders in the business. The contract farming clause which allowed the farmers to approach the courts in case as promised that their land will not be used for the purpose of giving loans and mortgaging of the lands as mentioned in the acts.
The proposal was not meant with great appreciation as the farmers' claim against this provision of the act was the long standing history related to contract farming which has resulted in the occupying of the lands of the farmers due to non-payment of dues.
Farmer suicides and in-dept issues have remained unresolved for decades in India. The standing committee on Agriculture found out that the Farm acts were not being implemented by Indian Agriculture markets or working honestly.
Farmer bills, 2020
In June 2020, three acts were promulgated:-
1. Farmers produce trade and commerce (promotion and facilitation) act, 2020-Electronic trading and e-commerce are to be practiced. Expanding selected areas for farming. Levying of market fee or on farmers, cess, and the electronic platforms by the State governments is strictly prohibited.
2. Farmers (empowerment and protection) agreement on price assurance and the farm services act, 2020-This act provides a legal framework and dispute resolution mechanism. Farmers can enter into pre-arranged contracts with the buyers.
3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020- This act removes stockholding limits on agriculture items such as cereals, onions, edible oils, and many more from the list of essential commodities produced by horticulture. These three farm laws were tabled in Punjab, Rajasthan, and Chattisgarh to amend.
A piece of complete information is provided by these Farm acts. Farmer's response was a bit supportive in Maharashtra. They believed in the bills and wanted to decide the price of agricultural commodities. The opposition reason was the uncertainty in the implementation of the farm acts. Low bargaining power and minimum support price was also the center point for opposition to the bills. The three acts were repealed on 1st December 2021.
Steps ensuring better approaches for agriculture practices
India ranks 71 out of 113 countries according to the food security index 2020. The Food Corporation of India has played a vital role in India Karnataka Andhra Pradesh Tamil Nadu up and Chhattisgarh forwarded schemes providing good nutrition to the people.
“ Indira canteen” which is launched by Karnataka serves three times the food a day and is very affordable. Tamilnadu initiated’ AmmaVnavagam’ which was proposed by the Nimbkar agricultural research Institute.
The State of UP passed a food bill ensuring not to throw away leftover food from the parties rather than to distribute it to needy people 2013. Chhattisgarh government enacted Food Security Act ensuring nutrition food at a low price to everyone in the state. 138 crore people of India is a challenge for food production. It is hard to meet every individual's needs in the country and ensure access to food for them. Per unit of land and irrigation water is needed for agriculture. Financial problems become a hurdle for the families who can't afford to buy food and this is the reason many children around India are malnourished.The protein-rich diet should be more available and affordable. Environmental friendly Technology should be used with minimum land and water. Biogas can be used as a surplus with mined natural gas for the production of poultry, fish, and protein-rich cattle.
Stability of price economic balance with the price rise should be maintained. Supply of goods will supply money wholesale price the price of all would be the wholesale price index of the Indian economy. Fiscal measures, monetary measures, administered price mechanisms and the Public Distribution system are certain steps to control price rise.
India's fertilizer subsidy burden can be reduced by shifting to green ammonia. It can reduce the dependence on imports of Expensive Liquefied Natural Gas (LPG) for fertilizer manufacturing. This can boost self-reliance energy too. Fertilizer demand is expected to go over the years and the need for liquefied natural gas imports.We should keep to the more domestically produced feedstock and a cleaner environment. Grey hydrogen is produced from natural gas or methane which acts as a feedstock for Ammonia production; this can be replaced by Green hydrogen which is produced by electrolysis of water which is powered by renewable energy. Green Ammonia can be produced by using various other electricity inputs such as the grid electricity.
The laws established with a view of improving the conditions of the farmers have not been perceived well with the ultimate beneficiary of them as was in the case of farm bills but the government is working rigorously towards framing laws which will improve the conditions of the farmers. The future ahead to this is that the government with due deliberation and negotiation with the stakeholders make laws which can solve the problems of the farmers. This is the only way we can resolve the numerous issues surrounding them.[iii]
The issues of employment, low income, are quite substantial matters affecting the lives and families of several farmers across the nation. The need of the hour is to look beyond the loopholes and corruption of the system and find a way to deal with these problems. The conditions of the farmers can be improved if the government with their constant efforts continues to work for the benefit of the farmers.
[i]agricultureahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_India#:~:text=Indian%20farmers%20 are%20people%20who,as%20per%20the%20different%20definitions [ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Food_Security_Act,_2013 [iii] https://www.jagranjosh.com/