APMC Act amended by ordinance in Karnataka

Published : May 15, 2020 18:01 IST

At the market yard of the APMC in Gulbarga, Karnataka, a file picture. Photo: Arun Kulkarni

Ignoring the massive opposition from farmers’ groups and opposition political parties in Karnataka, the State Cabinet under the leadership of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa amended the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act by an ordinance on May 14. With this ordinance that is expected to get the Governor’s assent soon, farmers will no longer be bound to the more than 160 APMC markets in the State and they can sell their produce to private players as well. The amendment comes in the wake of the State government receiving a letter from the Central government which “suggested” that the Centre’s Model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017, be adopted by the State.

According to reports, Law Minister J.C. Madhuswamy stated that with this ordinance, farmers would be free of intermediaries and they would not be exploited. “Farmers are free to sell their produce at APMC yards or at private markets. The choice is up to the farmer,” Madhuswamy told media persons. With this amendment, private companies involved in food processing can go right up to the doorstep of the farmer’s house and directly purchase the produce from them. Private companies have also been allowed to open markets for agricultural produce.

Prakash T. N. Kammardi, a professor of agricultural economics and former Chairman, Karnataka Agricultural Price Commission, who spoke to Frontline was severely critical of the government’s move. “I’m surprised that the State is giving away its right and admitting that it is incapable of carrying out its role. Through this amendment, it is diluting its role and giving way to the private sector. The State government is undermining the role of democratic institutions like APMC. It is proven conclusively world over that agriculture requires state intervention. The COVID pandemic has taught us that government and state role is predominant in food security and distribution of agricultural commodities but instead, the government is doing away with this in the time of the pandemic. APMCs are the last hope for the farmer regarding price and marketing, and with that hope gone, the government is cheating the farming community,” Kammardi said.

T. Yashavantha, State committee member of the Karnataka Pranta Raitha Sangha and a mulberry cultivator based in Maddur, said, “The government has been trying to open up agricultural markets to the private sector for a long time, but it has been unable to do so because of the farmers’ protests. They have deviously used the lockdown period to bring about this amendment when the farmers cannot protest,” he said.

Former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress questioned as to how such a serious move that affected the lives of thousands of farmers could be brought about without any discussion in the Assembly but through an ordinance. Former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal (Secular) also criticised the amendment to the APMC Act and warned that it could “lead to exploitation of farmers”.

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