For the last one week, farmers’ organisations, hamali workers’ (who fall in the unorganised sector) unions and opposition parties have been staging a series of protests against the Karnataka government’s ordinance amending the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act. While the move brings in new changes such as allowing private players to open up markets alongside the existing APMC markets, the opposition parties are arguing that the changes will impact the rights of farmers. They also allege that the new law will dismantle the existing agriculture marketing system in the state affecting traders and workers associated with APMC markets.
On May 14, Karnataka cabinet under Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa cleared the ordinance amending the APMC act. The move is in accordance with the BJP-led central government’s directions to the state to adopt the Centre’s Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017.
The new changes will severely impact the existing social control over agriculture production and marketing, said G C Bayyareddy, state president of Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha (KPRS). Speaking to NewsClick, he said, “Instead of strengthening the regulated APMC markets, the government is opening up the agriculture markets to private players that may affect both the rights of vulnerable farmers and consumers. The government is pushing towards corporatisation of agriculture marketing and production by encouraging contract farming, monopoly of corporates over seeds, pesticides and fertilisers and so on that will affect the farming pattern and food habits in the state.”
Presently, there are over 200 APMC market yards including sub markets across talukasand more than a lakh hamali workers associated with these markets in the state.
“The changes in APMC act will render hundreds of hamali workers (who load and unload farm produce at the markets) jobless,” said K N Umesh, Bangalore South District Secretary of the Communist Party of India(Marxist).On May 20, CPI(M) had staged protest demonstrations across the state opposing the ordinance and demanding relief package for sectors affected due to lockdown measures for the containment of coronavirus pandemic.
On May 27, KPRS and other farmers’ organisations will be holding protest demonstrations across the state in response to an all India call given by the joint platform of All Indian Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC).
State Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) leaders have also opposed the ordinance and held protest demonstrations. “This will allow private companies to dictate the supply and demand which threatens food security & guaranteed price for farmers,” tweeted Siddaramaiah, former Karnataka CM.
“Over 50% of the state population is associated with agriculture and allied activities and corporatisation or westernisation of the sector will have a detrimental impact on farmers and agricultural workers,” Bayyareddy added, explaining the extent of the impact.