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Government issues time-bound rules for farm contract disputes; says farmers have flexibility


NEW DELHI: The government has rolled out time bound rules and procedures for dispute resolution in the recently enacted farm law – Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 – which is related to contract farming.

As per the notified rules, sub-divisional magistrate would resolve the dispute by forming a conciliation board having equal representation from both sides.

“The process of conciliation should be completed within 30 days from the date of appointment of conciliation board. If the conciliation board fails to resolve the dispute, either of the party can approach sub divisional authority, who will have to decide the case within 30 days of filing application after proper hearing,” said an official.

The official said that there are several instances where land of farmers fall across more than one sub divisions.

“In such cases, the sub-divisional magistrate having jurisdiction over the largest portion of the land would be the deciding authority,” the official informed.

The official said that parties involved in the farm agreement will have the right to move to higher authority for review.

“The collector of the concerned district or the additional collector nominated by the collector would be the appellate authority. The aggrieved party may, within thirty days of passing of such order, file an appeal to the appellate authority in physical or electronic format,” the official said.

The authority then would have to dispose of the case within 30 days from the date of filing of such appeal, after giving the concerned parties a reasonable opportunity of being heard.

“The order passed by the appellate authority would have the force of the decree of the civil court,” the official said.

Farmers in Punjab, Haryana and some parts of western Uttar Pradesh have been agitating against this farm law, which is intended to provide farmers a cushion of assured price irrespective of monsoon vagaries and climatic conditions.

Farmers fear that the contract farming agreements will favour big corporates and companies in case of any dispute.

Dispelling the apprehension, the official said that the farm laws have been constituted in the interest of farmers.

“Even after entering into an agreement, farmers will have the flexibility to terminate the contract anytime as per their choice. However, the other party – any company or processor – will have to abide by the clauses in the agreement. They can’t get out of the contract without fulfilling obligations,” the official said.

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