On 14 September, while farmer organisations protested in Punjab and Haryana, the centre introduced three bills in parliament related to the farm sector. These bills replaced three ordinances that were promulgated in June—The Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment And Protection) Agreement On Price Assurance And Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. Ordinances are temporary laws than can be issued by the president when parliament is not in session. They must be approved by the parliament within six weeks of it reassembling. After the Lok Sabha reconvened for the monsoon session, the first two bills passed on 17 September, and the third passed on 15 September.
Farmers across Punjab have been protesting the ordinances for more than three months now. Their protests have intensified since the parliament reconvened—on 14 September, farmers affiliated to nearly a dozen unions protested and blocked traffic along highways in Punjab. After the bills passed, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, a farmers’ organisation in Punjab, announced a “Rail Roko”—or stop the trains—agitation from 24 to 26 September. Various other farmer groups in the state have called for a bandh on 25 September in protest against the farm bills.
The ordinances, replaced by bills of the same names, introduce changes in the way that agricultural produce is sold. At present, farmers sell their produce in government-regulated mandis, or market yards, which operate under the Agriculture Produce Market Committee, or APMC, Act. Government-procurement agencies are mandated to buy wheat and paddy at a minimum-support price, or MSP. These agencies pay a market and rural development fee to the state government as well as a fees to commissioning agents who pack and clean the farmers produce. Private traders can also purchase crops at the mandis. There is currently a fixed MSP for atleast 22 crops. The MSP is a price guaranteed by the government to protect farmers from market fluctuations.