NAGPUR, Maharashtra: While farmers in many parts of India, especially Punjab and Haryana, are protesting against three contentious bills recently passed by the Narendra Modi government in Parliament, Maharashtra isn’t seeing much outrage. This may strike some as strange, given that the state has recorded the highest number of farmers’ suicides for over a decade now.
The most prominent farmer leader in the state, Raju Shetty, head of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, says he is against the bills, but doesn’t expect Maharashtra’s farmers to react like those in Punjab and Haryana.
“My organization is opposing it but it is not being opposed in Maharashtra the way it is in Punjab and Haryana, because the purchase by the government is very less in Maharashtra as compared to Punjab and Haryana and the farmers also sell their produce outside APMCs,” Shetty told HuffPost India.
APMCs, or Agriculture Produce Market Committees, are government-run mandis set up to ostensibly protect farmers from exploitation and ensure a fair price for their produce. But over the past few years, Maharashtra had taken a series of steps that meant farmers weren’t dependent on APMCs. In 2016, the state government had delisted fruits and vegetables from the purview of APMCs. Two years later, the Devendra Fadnavis government attempted to expand this for all agricultural produce but was forced to backtrack after protests.
The Narendra Modi government has claimed that the three bills that were controversially pushed through Parliament—Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020—will make it easier for farmers to sell their produce directly to even private players but this has also made farmers anxious as they fear they might be left at the mercy of big corporates.
Another concern of the...