THE FARMERS’ FREEDOM FROM INDEBTEDNESS BILL, 2018

STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS

The nation is indebted to farmers for the food security and sovereignty functions that they contribute. In spite of their contribution, thousands of farmers are committing suicide every year and millions of farmers are in distress due to indebtedness. The Government is obligated to prevent farmer’s suicides and distress, especially because their causes are related to Government policies.

Prices of farm commodities have been kept low as a policy measure and the recommendation of the National Farmers Commission to fix Minimum Support Prices with at least fifty per cent. returns on the comprehensive cost of production has not been implemented for the past twelve years, thus adversely affecting farmers’ returns and building up indebtedness.

The Governments have not fulfilled their responsibilities to provide comprehensive institutional credit facilities, provide recognition and full inclusion to many categories of farmers including tenant farmers, women farmers and adivasi farmers, execute effective risk insurance and disaster relief measures, keep input prices in check and effectively promote low cost sustainable agriculture and to build infrastructure. These failures on the part of the
Government have resulted in huge losses to farmers, leading to a debt trap, with both institutional and private creditors. In the context of frequent occurrence of natural calamities and climate change, farmers need automatic protection from the debt trap during disasters. In has been held that the Right to Life guaranteed under article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to live with human dignity and the right to livelihood. Thus, the Government
is obligated to ensure a life of dignity and freedom from indebtedness to farmers who are in debt due to no fault of theirs and for reasons not under their control.

In order to provide relief to the farmers who are in distress due to indebtedness, the Bill provides an immediate and complete loan waiver. To prevent farmers from being pushed back into indebtedness, there is need to provide systemic changes in all farmers into the fold of institutional credit with zero interest rate, and for substantive debt relief in the case of disasters. The Reserve Bank of India and NABARD shall be mandated to ensure compliance.

Farmers’ Distress and Disaster Relief Commissions shall be constituted at the national and State levels with power to pro-actively recommend relief measures in distress affected areas and distress affected crops, and pass awards for the redressal of the grievances of indebted farmers in various ways. The Bill also obligates suggests the Government to institute effective disaster relief and crop insurance and promotion of low-cost ecological agriculture, and furthermore, seeks to provide special support to families affected by a farmer suicide.

As the root causes of indebtedness and the increasing incidence of natural disastersdue to climate change are common in various States across the country, there is a need for a Central legislation to address the problem and to provide the necessary relief and institutional framework for protection of farmers from indebtedness. In view of the guidelines by the Supreme Court for harmonization of Entry 45 of the Union List and Entry 30 of the State List,
the Bill provides a national framework with the cooperation of State Governments, for the implementation of distress relief at the national and State level, with adequate resource support from the Central Government.

Hence, this Bill.

AUTHOR

Shri Raju Shetti (M.P.)

Bill No. 118 of 2018

 

PUBLICATION DATE

06 Apr, 2018

 

Download the full bill HERE

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