The Left parties are closely studying the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Agriculture (SCA) on the Seeds Bill, 2004, which seeks to repeal the Seeds Act of 1996.
The large-scale amendments suggested by the Committee, which if accepted could mean redrafting the bill, has literally become a note of embarrassment for the government.
Experts are also saying that the Seeds Bill is attempt to nullify the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act).
A Left party source said that bill, listed to be taken up in the Winter Session of Parliament, will not be passed without the amendments.
"Two politburo members of the CPI (M) who are also part of the All India Kisan Sabha have deposed before the Committee and were critical about the bill. There’s no question of the bill being passed without incorporating the amendments," the source said.
The source said that the Committee has clearly said that certain clauses of the Act restrict the rights of the farmers.
"Farmers should have the rights to his farm seeds and planting material, the bill says that but adds that farmers whose seeds do not conform to the minimum limit of germination, physical and genetic purity would constitute a violation of the Act. This restricts farmers’ rights," source said.
The Left is also criticising that the bill expects the farmers to go to the consumer court to get compensation for spurious or misbranded seeds or seeds that not give promised yield.
"We agree with the SCA’s view that farmers are not expected to know about the Consumer Protection Act. The compensation clause should be included in the Bill itself," the source said.
Suman Sahai, head of Gene Campaign - an NGO that works in the fields of food and livelihood security, says the Bill is a "piece of nonsense and illegitimate". Sahai had also deposed before the Committee to giver views.
"It is clearly an attempt to nullify the PPVFR Act, which is a strong pro-farmer legislation. The government has not enforced the Bill since 2001. It has been passe by both Houses of Parliament and the President had also cleared it. The new Seeds Bill, which the government is trying to enforce before it enforces the PPVFR Act, is exactly the opposite and is anti-farmer," Sahai said.
MP Veerendra, Janata Dal (secular) MP from Kerala and member of the SCA, said the bill gives "total control to the corporate sector. The farmers’ rights are infringed. That is why, we have suggested substantial alterations."
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