Amid farmers' protests, Parliament panel asks Modi government to implement Essential Commodities Act
It said although the country has become surplus in most agri-commodities, farmers have been unable to get better prices due to lack of investment in cold storage, warehouses, processing and export.
NEW DELHI: A Parliamentary Panel has asked the government to implement in "letter and spirit" the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act -- one of the laws against which farmers are protesting at Delhi borders for more than 100 days now.
This panel also has members from opposition parties including Congress, TMC and AAP.
These parties have been demanding repeal of all three farm laws enacted by the Centre recently.
In its report tabled in the Lok Sabha on March 19, the Standing Committee on Food chaired by TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay recommended the government to "implement the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 in letter and spirit, and without let or hindrances so that the farmers and other stakeholders of farming sector in this country receive the benefits intended under the said Act".
It said although the country has become surplus in most agri-commodities, farmers have been unable to get better prices due to lack of investment in cold storage, warehouses, processing and export as entrepreneurs get discouraged by the regulatory mechanisms in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.
"This has resulted in farmers suffering huge losses when there are bumper harvests, especially of perishable commodities, much of which could have been reduced with adequate processing facilities," the panel said.
The panel also noted that even the High Powered Committee for Transformation of Indian Agriculture had suggested that there was a need to create an environment based on ease of doing business and for removing the fear of frequent statutory controls under the Essential Commodities Act in order to boost immediate investment in agriculture sector, increase competition and enhance farmers' income.
"The Committee hope(s) and expect(s) that the recently enacted 'Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020', which was aimed at addressing the issue, will become a catalyst for unlocking vast untapped resources in the agriculture sector by creating an environment for enhanced investments in agriculture sector, fair and productive competition in agricultural marketing and increase farmers' income," the report added.
Further, the panel asked the government to keep a close watch on prices of essential commodities and take remedial steps because commodities such as potato, onions and pulses are part of a common man's daily diet and that lakhs of people who do not get the benefits of Public Distribution System (PDS) and may suffer adversely in the aftermath of the implementation of the new Act.
Besides, the committee also asked the government to consider inclusion of more consumables in the list of essential commodities, particularly those which directly affect the health of all consumers and are useful for village and town dwellers, and subsidise these products.
Thousands of farmers, especially from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, are camping at Delhi borders seeking repeal of the three farm laws for last 114 days.
So far, 11 rounds of talks between the government and protesting farm unions have failed to yield any result although the government has offered to suspend implementation of these laws for 18 months.
Meanwhile, a Supreme Court appointed panel is examining the matter and expected to submit a report in this regard anytime soon.