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Gujarat: Farmer leaders say ‘wake-up call’ for APMCs; traders express disappointment

Meanwhile traders said that the repeal of the laws would force them again to pay even for services which APMCs are not offering.

FARMER LEADERS and the Opposition parties in Gujarat welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement to withdraw the three farm laws even as leaders of the ruling BJP continued to defend the controversial legislations and asserted that they were being repealed in “larger interest of the country”.

Meanwhile traders said that the repeal of the laws would force them again to pay even for services which APMCs are not offering.

Ramanbhai Patel, Chairman of Gujarat Niyantrit Bazar Sangh (GNBS), a federation of more than 200 Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) of Gujarat, said the Centre’s move will protect farmers’ interest.

“We are not opposing (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi but the reality is that farmers could have benefited from those laws only if they were organised. But, they are neither organised nor have capacity as of now to store their produce and sell when prices are high. Therefore, they don’t have the capacity to bargain with private players,” he said.

Ramanbhai also said that the Modi government’s decision will also give a fresh lease of life to smaller APMCs.

“Smaller APMCs set up in newly created talukas or smaller talukas need time to establish themselves and the new farm laws had become the proverbial dagger flying over their heads. That said, the entire episode is a wake-up call for all the APMCs. Their management will have to ensure that their yards continue to serve the interests of farmers, offer something to traders and be beneficial to local people also,” the cooperative leader added.

The Centre’s new farm laws had ended the monopoly of APMCs in primary trading of agricultural commodities by restricting their supervisory and levy-collection powers to physical boundaries of their yards or mandis instead of an entire taluka (block) or more.

A few APMCs in the state don’t have any yard of their own yet they were charging cess on deals taking place in their jurisdictions while little trading is taking place on yards of dozens of other APMCs. The laws allowed private warehouses to be declared as APMCs and removed the requirement of obtaining a trading licence. The laws also provided a legal framework for contract farming.

But farmer leaders said the laws enacted by the Centre in September last year did not live up their promise.

“Despite they having the advantage of not being liable to pay any levy for directly procuring from farmers at farm gates, traders apparently failed to win the confidence of farmers as cess collection of established APMCs for on-yard trading actually increased over the past one year. This is evidence that farmers continued to cart their harvests to APMCs where their crop is sold through open auction, is weighed properly and are paid in cash instantly,” said Arvind Tagadiya, one of the directors of Gujarat State Agricultural Marketing Board (GSAMB), a stator body under whose aegis the APMCs of the state function.

But traders expressed disappointment over the Centre’s u-turn. “This means, we will again have to pay to APMCs for services they don’t provide us at all,” said Bachu Antrolia, a cotton trader and ginner from Manavadar in Junagadh district.

“I had increased my direct procurement from farmers to 85 per cent from 75 per cent of the overall procurement as I could offer to farmers Rs 50 more per quintal in absence of liability to pay cess to APMC. But now, we shall go back to old prices and eventually farmers lose out,” said Naran Patel, a cotton trader from Botad.

Meanwhile, former Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said the decision to repeal the farm laws was taken in “the larger interest of the country”.

“The laws were in the interest of the farmers… Unfortunately, farmers of some region could not understand… We believe that when the country is facing many other challenges, this decision has been taken in the larger interest of the country,” Patel said.

He also indicated that farmers of some states were not ready to spell out anything about the changes they wanted in the farm laws and attempts were made to hold Delhi hostage which was not appropriate.

However, the BJP leader denied the suggestion that the rethink by the Modi government was a result of ruling BJP’s setback in recent elections and possible impact of the farmers’ agitation on upcoming elections in states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

But, Congress leaders of the state termed the backtracking by the Centre a victory for farmers.

“This proves, Modi government was wrong all this while and yet tried to push the false agendas for suit-boot friends,” Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel said.

Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani who recently joined the Congress party demanded Rs 1 crore compensation for farmers who died during the protests.

“We demand that the government should lessen the budget of Rs 1 lakh crore for Bullet Train Project and Rs 20,000 crore for the New Central Vista Project and use that money to give Rs 1 crore each to the families of the farmers who were martyred during the Kisan Andolan,” said Mevani.

Meanwhile in Surat, Khedut Samaj, Gujarat (KGS), a farmers’ organisation. burst firecrackers outside its office in Jehangirpura and distributed sweets after the PM’s announcement.

“It is a victory for rural India  over capitalism. The agitation has not ended as the Parliament has yet to repeal the three laws. Our demand for implementation of Swaminathan Committee report is still pending and we hope the government looks into that also,” Jayesh Patel, president of KGS, which had organised protests in Surat in support of the farmers protesting in Delhi against the three laws, said.

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