The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly opposes the three ordinances approved by the Union Cabinet yesterday regarding agriculture.
The proposed amendments to the Essential Commodities Act removes all regulations over the pricing and availability of key agricultural commodities essential for the country’s food security. These proposals pave the way to create artificial shortages due to speculation by middlemen and traders adversely affecting the country’s food security. Further, these amendments, by removing all restrictions and providing “barrier free inter-state and intra-state” sale of agricultural produce pave the way for contract farming by promoting trade and commerce outside the premises or markets covered under the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (mandis). Licences for electronic trading will pave the way for speculative forward trading in all agricultural commodities. These open the way for the entry of big mulitnational agrobusiness and domestic corporates to freely access India’s agricultural produce and markets.
These Cabinet proposals come at a time when agrarian distress is worsening due to the pandemic and the national lockdown. At a time when our farmers require greater protection, these measures will lead to the abandonment of ensuring procurement at a reasonable minimum support price.
The net gainer of all these amendments would be the middlemen, traders and financial intermediaries who will squeeze both the producer, the farmer, and the consumer. This is a recipe for the total destruction of whatever little of the public distribution system that is left.
It is obnoxious that the Agriculture Minister chose to describe these ordinances as the ‘real freedom’ of the farmers. He claimed that while the country got independence in 1947, the farmers had not. The decisions of successive governments of independent India, however limited they may have been, relatively protected both the farmers and the food security of the country for many years after independence. The aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal reforms by the Modi government is threatening to bring back the days of ruthless exploitation under the British rule for the Indian farmers.
The PB of the CPI(M) is of the firm opinion that these ordinances cannot come into force until the parliament deliberates and legislates on it. The due process of scrutiny by the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture must be done before these are enacted as laws.
Importantly, Agriculture is a state subject under the Indian Constitution. The Union Cabinet has approved these ordinances without consulting the elected state governments. This is a gross violation of our Constitution. Even if the parliament considers and legislates on it, this must be subject to the approval of the state legislatures and cannot be unilaterally imposed by the Centre.
The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) demands that these ordinances be immediately rescinded.