Uttar Pradesh is among the very few states that have for years resisted the pressure from the centre and the World Bank to open the state’s agricultural sector to private companies, apparently for the fear of an electoral backlash.
The Mulayam Singh Yadav government did make an attempt to introduce contract farming in the state in 2005 but had to withdraw the proposal soon afterwards as the Opposition parties and farmer lobbies made a hue and cry.
Probably taking a lesson from the same, the Mayawati government just refused to listen to the centre and the World Bank’s threats. Sources said the centre had for long, been pressing the states to amend their Agricultural Produce Marketing Commodities (APMC) Act to facilitate the entry of domestic and global private players in the farm sector or run the risk of losing central financial assistance for various projects.
The World Bank that thought the APMC Act to be retarding the agricultural growth in states also pressured UP to decontrol the agriculture sector by making suitable amendments in the mandi law.
“The World Bank even stopped funding the UP Diversified Agricultural Support Project (UPDASP),” said agriculture expert MP Upadhyaya. “But the previous government refused to give in to pressure and decided to run the project with its own resources,” he added. Now, once again, the SP government is gearing up to introduce contract farming in the garb of agreement farming. The move is not expected to evoke much protests from any quarter, now. Rather, it has been welcomed by experts.
“The Akhilesh Yadav government’s move to try to amend the APMC Act to introduce agreement farming is the first positive step taken by it,” said Giri Institute of Developmental Studies, director AK Singh.
He said a majority of states had already amended the Act and were experiencing positive results. Also welcoming the move, MP Upadhyaya suggested that agreement farming be tried first in respect of commercial and medicinal crops only.
On the other hand, there is another opinion according to which opening the agricultural sector might harm farmers’ interests in the long run.
“The move to introduce contract or agreement farming is nothing short of the handover of agriculture to global giants, harming the interests of farmers, traders, and retailers,” said an official. Agriculture production commissioner (APC) Alok Ranjan said such apprehensions were without any basis. “There are only three-four states (including UP) that have not amended their APMC Act,” he pointed out.
He said that the GoM had sent its recommendations to the CM who would take the final call.