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Opinion

For the first time, the farmer sues merchants under a new law and receives quotas

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A Maharashtra corn grower has become the first person to invoke a provision in one of three recently enacted farm reform laws, suing two traders for failing to pay money owed to him for the sale of produce and forcing them to food merchants to settle an outstanding invoice of Rs. 285,000, according to documents reviewed by HT.

The Trade in Agricultural Products and Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act of 2020, one of the laws passed in September to free up agricultural trade in the country, requires buyers to pay farmers “within three days” of a transaction.

Farmers in some states, especially Punjab, are protesting farm laws, fearing that they could erode their bargaining power and create a monopoly for big business in the long run. However, for Maharashtra grower Jitendra Bhoi, the law was effective in getting wholesale food aggregators, who often have farmers chasing them for payment, settle their quotas promptly.

“Before the Trade in Agricultural Products Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act of 2020 was enacted in September, India did not have a legal mechanism available for farmers to enforce deadline payments,” said a Ministry official. of Agriculture, requesting anonymity.

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Bhoi grew corn this summer on his 18-acre farm in the village of Shirpur tehsil in Bhatane, in the state district of Dhule. A tehsil refers to a civil administrative zone. On July 19, the farmer prepared to sell 270.95 quintal (100 kg each) of corn at a rate of Rs 1,240 per quintal to two traders, Subhash Vani and Arun Vani.

The traders belonged to the adjoining village of Khetia, across the border from Maharashtra, in the Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh. The total value of the transaction was set at Rs 332,617, according to Bhoi’s complaint to the Pansemal tehsil subdivisional magistrate, which HT has seen.

The merchants collected all the produce, made a token payment of 25,000 rupees, and promised to pay the rest within 15 days. In his complaint, the farmer attached receipts for the transaction showing the outstanding amount.

Bhoi approached authorities in the first week of October, after payments took nearly four months. “An employee I know in the local market alerted me to this provision in the new laws introduced by the government. He said merchants must now pay within three days. So I decided to file a complaint, ”Bhoi told HT by phone.

In accordance with Section 8 of the Agricultural Products Trade (Promotion and Facilitation) Act of 2020, “The Subdivisional Authority shall decide the dispute or contravention under this section summarily within thirty days from the date of your presentation and after giving the parties a chance to be heard … ”

Simply put, in case of payment disputes between a farmer and a merchant in the new free markets provided by recent laws, a magistrate must resolve the row of transactions within a month.

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In response to the farmer’s complaint, authorities located the traders and summoned them on October 6. They faced prospects for criminal action, including arrest. “After studying the case, listening to the farmer and reviewing the documents, I have ordered the buyers to make immediate payments due to the farmer,” says the magistrate’s closing report filed with collector Shivraj Singh Verma on November 5.

The process forced the merchants Subhash Vani and Aun Vani to renegotiate the total outstanding amount to a little less than what was initially agreed, paying the new debt in two installments. The case was closed on November 4.

“Dispute resolution at the local magistrate level helps avoid the hassle of going to court. But it’s really a question of how conscious farmers are, ”said Anand Yagnik, a lawyer who successfully fought a 2018 case against suppliers of sub-standard cottonseed to farmers in Yavatmal, Maharashtra.

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