The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

SHRI AMAR PATNAIK (ODISHA): Sir, first, I would like to congratulate you. The stated purpose of this Bill is increasing the competitiveness in the agriculture sector and enhancing the income of the farmers, and the regulatory system needs to be liberalized while protecting the interest of consumers. So, there are two stakeholders here, the farmer and the consumer. And, it is also a part of the entire farm sector transformation that the Government has been talking about. We have passed two Bills. This is actually a part of that entire transformation process. There are many good points in this. The most important is that it makes the entire regime very stable and it also supports the farm Bills in terms of carrying it through the entire contract farming sponsors. So, what has the Bill done is that it has tried to have a carve-out for the contract farming sponsors. But while doing this, what is important is that it has kept the existing PDS system unchanged, which basically means that the Government would still continue to procure at the Minimum Support Price. I think that, probably, settles the debate about the MSP, even though, probably, it should have been mentioned much more clearly in the two farm Bills. Now, I will come to the provisions of the Bill. Let me mention the concerns. First concern is, the Bill says that in extraordinary circumstances, the power to resort to the provisions of bringing in the regulations rests with the Government because of various conditions like calamity of grave nature, and, it says, natural calamity. There may be a situation of manmade calamity like gas leak and other things. So, what would happen in those situations? I want to urge the Government to consider this. Secondly, and, this is the most important point about the mention of price in Clause 2(b) which says that any action on imposing stock limits shall be based on price rise, and, this price is not the price that is being given to the farmers. This confusion should be made clear. It is the consumer price. Sir, price here has two components. One is the consumer price and the other is the farmers' or the producers' price. The consumer price is decided by the market. If there are more number of buyers, the price will be different, and, the farmers price, which is the Minimum Support Price, is the cost+ kind of a price. How do you reconcile both those things? These are the things which have to be clarified and clarity has to be brought in these provisions. Another important point is about the stock limits. How have these limits been fixed? What is the rationale? Is it giving too much of space to the contract sponsors at the cost of the farmers? Is it giving too much of liberty to the contract sponsors to play around with the market, which ultimately may affect the farmers? So, I would urge the Government and the hon. Minister to consider keeping the storage element in the entire value chain out of the ambit of this particular Bill. The value chain participant will enjoy the value addition but will the farmers, the small and marginal farmers, enjoy the value addition, and, if they do it, how will they do it? Generally, it is the farmers who bear the losses and the buyers get the profits. Unless you make sure that the profits trickle down, there may be problem of implementation of this new Bill. The intention definitely is to ensure that the farmers get better price because of the contract sponsors and because of his ability to sell his produce by value addition. But it has to be ensured that the contract, which is signed with the land owner, finally also goes to the sharecroppers in terms of sharing of the profits. This is one concern that I have.While supporting the Bill, I would like to mention another important thing, which is research in agriculture. Will the Bill actually take agricultural research into the value chain process so that it helps indirectly the very farmers, whom it is trying to help by bringing in this particular Bill? The traditional agricultural practices have a lot of value, which bring out different kinds of products. These will actually be brought into the scheme of things so that the farmers, who are producing various kinds of esoteric products, could actually have a market through a contract sponsor not only outside their farm gate, in the entire country, but maybe outside the country in the export market. Sir, the market development is very essential to ensure that the small and marginal farmers and the sharecroppers get the benefit of value chain transformation that is going to take place. I think, it should be ensured either through proper designing of the rules, that will subsequently flow from the Bill, or, at some stage, while preparing the amendments, which might probably come in, if the hon. Minister so desires. In that case, it is the farmers, the sharecroppers who would probably be convinced that these three Bills, two farmers Bills as well as this Essential Commodities Bill, will ultimately help them in getting more price than what they are getting now. It has definitely opened the market, it has liberalized the markets, and, equally important is the point that that the sharecroppers, the farmers and the small and marginal farmers, who constitute about sixty per cent or more, and, in a State like Odisha it is even more, get the benefits of the value chain addition process. In the value chain add process, there are four elements -- processing, packaging, transport and distribution and storage. As I said, and I reiterate, storage could be taken out separately because there is a possibility that the contract sponsor may manipulate the storage process to get a better price without passing it on to the farmers, while transportation and distribution is essential for aggregation which is required for economies of scale which currently the farmer is not able to do. So, giving a very balanced picture, I would say, the Bill is extremely positive in intent, but there could be implementation problems which should be taken care of while making the rules. Thank you so much, Sir.