Since March, 2020, there has been a consistent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in India. As of May 18, 2020, there were 96,169 confirmed cases of the infectious disease, of which 3,029 persons died. To contain the spread of COVID-19 in India, the central government imposed a nation-wide lockdown on March 24 till April 14, now extended till May 31. To ensure continued supply of agriculture produce during the lockdown and control the spread of the disease, some states have amended their respective Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws. This blog explains the manner in which agriculture marketing is regulated in India, steps taken by the centre for the agriculture sector during the COVID-19 crisis, and the recent amendments in the APMC laws that are being announced by various states.
How is agriculture marketing regulated in India?
Agriculture falls under the State List of the Constitution. Agriculture marketing in most states is regulated by APMCs established by state governments under the respective APMC Acts. The APMCs provide infrastructure for marketing of agricultural produce, regulate sale of such produce and collect market fees from such sale, and regulate competition in agricultural marketing. In 2017, the central government released the model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017 to provide states with a template to enact new legislation and bring comprehensive market reforms in the agriculture sector. The 2017 model Act aims to allow free competition, promote transparency, unify fragmented markets and facilitate flow of commodities, and encourage operation of multiple marketing channels. In November 2019, the 15th Finance Commission (Chair: Mr N. K. Singh) in its report provided that states which enact and implement all features of this Model Act will be eligible for certain financial incentives.
What steps were taken by the central government in light of COVID-19?
On April 2, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare launched new features of the electronic-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) platform to strengthen agriculture marketing by reducing the need of farmers to physically come to wholesale mandis for selling their harvested produce. The e-NAM platform provides for contactless remote bidding and mobile-based any time payment for which traders do not need to either visit mandis or banks. This helps in ensuring social distancing and safety in the APMC markets to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On April 4, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare issued an advisory to states for limiting the regulation under their APMC Acts. The advisory called for facilitating direct marketing of agricultural produce, enabling direct purchase of the produce from farmers, farmer producer organisations, cooperatives by bulk buyers, big retailers, and processors.
On May 15, 2020 the Union Finance Minister announced certain reforms for the agriculture sector of the country to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown. Some of the major reforms include: (i) formulating a central law to ensure adequate choices to farmers to sell agricultural produce at attractive prices, barrier free inter-state trade, and framework for e-trading of agricultural produce, (ii) amending the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to enable better price realisation for agricultural produce such as all cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions, and potatoes, and (iii) creating a facilitative legal framework for contract farming, to enable farmers to engage directly with processors, large retailers, and exporters.
Which states have made changes to agriculture marketing laws?
The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has approved an ordinance, and Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka have promulgated ordinances, to relax regulatory aspects of their APMC laws. These Ordinances are summarised below:
On May 1, 2020, the Madhya Pradesh government promulgated the Madhya Pradesh Krishi Upaj Mandi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. The Ordinance amends the Madhya Pradesh Krishi Upaj Mandi Act, 1972. The 1972 Act regulates the establishment of an agricultural market and marketing of notified agricultural produce. The following amendments have been made under the Ordinance:
Market yards: The 1972 Act provides that in every market area, there should be a market yard, with one or more sub-market yards, for conducting all marketing activities such as assembling, grading, storage, sale, and purchase of the produce. The Ordinance removes this provision and specifies that in the state, there may be: (i) a principal market yard and sub-market yard managed by the APMC, (ii) a private market yard managed by a person holding a license (granted by the Director of Agriculture Marketing), and (iii) electronic trading platforms (where trading of notified produce is done electronically through internet).
Director of Agricultural Marketing: The Ordinance provides for the appointment of the Director of Agricultural Marketing by the state government. The Director will be responsible for regulating: (i) trading and connected activities for the notified agricultural produce, (ii) private market yards, and (iii) electronic trading platforms. He may also grant licenses for these activities.
Market fee: The Ordinance also provides that market fee for trading under licenses granted by the Director of Agricultural Marketing will be levied as prescribed by the state government.
On May 6, 2020, the Gujarat government promulgated the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. The Ordinance amends the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1963. The amended Act is called the Gujarat Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 1963. Key amendments made under the Ordinance are as follows:
Regulation of livestock market: The Ordinance brings the regulation of marketing of livestock such as cow, buffalo, bullock, bull, and fish under the ambit of this Act.
Unified market area: The Ordinance provides that the state government may declare the whole state as one unified market area through a notification. This can be done with the purpose of regulation of marketing of notified agricultural produce.
Unified single licence: The Ordinance provides for the grant of a single unified trading license. The license will be valid across the state in any market area. Existing trade licenses must be converted into the single unified licenses within six months from the date of commencement of the Ordinance.
Markets for conducting trading: The Ordinance allows the state government to notify any place in the market area as the principal market yard, sub-market yard, market sub-yard, or farmer consumer market yard for the regulation of marketing of notified agricultural produce. Certain places in the market area can also be declared a private market yard, a private market sub-yard, or a private farmer-consumer market yard. The Ordinance adds that the notified agricultural produce may also be sold at other places to a licence holder, if especially permitted by a market committee.
Market sub-yards: The Ordinance provides that a market area should have market-sub yards (warehouse, storage towers, cold storage enclosure buildings or such other structure or place or locality). Further, it also provides that the owner of a warehouse, silo, cold storage or such other structure or place notified as market sub-yard, may collect a market fee on notified agricultural produce. He may also collect user charge on de-notified agricultural produce transacted at the market sub-yard. The rate of the fees should not exceed the rates notified by the state government. However, no market fee shall be collected from farmers.
E-trading: The Ordinance provides for the establishment and promotion of electronic trading (e-trading) platforms. It provides that a license granted by the Director of Agricultural Marketing is necessary to establish an e-trading platform. Further, it provides that applications on the e-trading platform shall be inter-operable with other e-platforms as per specifications and standards laid down by the Director. This has been done to evolve a unified National Agricultural Market and integrate various e-platforms.
On May 16, the Karnataka government promulgated the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. The Ordinance amends the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) Act, 1966. The 1966 Act regulates the buying and selling and the establishment of markets for agricultural produce throughout the state. Key amendments made under the Ordinance are as follows:
Markets for agricultural produce: The 1966 Act provides that no place except the market yard, market sub-yard, sub-market yard, private market yard, or farmer - consumer market yard shall be used for the trade of notified agricultural produce. The Ordinance substitutes this to provide that the market committee shall regulate the marketing of notified agricultural produce in the market yards, market sub-yards and submarket yards. Thus, the Act no longer bars any place for the trade of notified agricultural produce.
Penalty: The 1966 Act provides that whoever uses any place for purchase or sale of notified agricultural produce can be punished with imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs 5,000, or both. The Ordinance removes this penalty provision from the Act.
On May 6, the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet approved the Uttar Pradesh Krishi Utpadan Mandi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. According to the state’s press release, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to remove 46 fruits and vegetables from the ambit of the Uttar Pradesh Krishi Utpadan Mandi Act, 1964. The 1964 Act provides for the regulation of sale and purchase of notified agricultural produce and for the establishment and control of agricultural markets in Uttar Pradesh.
Certain fruits and vegetables exempted from the provisions of the Act: These fruits and vegetables include mango, apple, carrot, banana, and ladies’ finger. The proposed amendment aims to facilitate the purchase of these products directly from farmers from their farms. Farmers will be allowed to sell these products at the APMC mandis as well, where they will not be charged the mandi fee. Only the user charge will be levied as prescribed by the state government. As per the state government, this will entail a loss of revenue of approximately Rs 125 crore per year to the APMCs.
License: Specific licenses can be procured to carry on trade at places other than APMC markets. This will encourage the treatment of warehouses, silos, and cold storages as mandis. The owners or managers of such establishments can charge the user fee for managing the mandi. Further, unified license can be used to trade at village level.
As of April 22, 2020, Sikkim does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of April 21, 2020, 87 samples have been sent for testing from Sikkim. Of these, 80 have tested negative for COVID-19, and the results of seven samples are awaited. The state has announced several policy decisions to prevent the spread of the virus and provide relief for those affected by it. In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the Sikkim state government in this regard as of April 22, 2020.
Response before national lockdown
On March 16, the state government responded to the growing number of suspected cases in India by notifying certain directions to be applicable till April 15, 2020. These included: (i) banning the entry of all domestic and foreign tourists in to the state, (ii) closing all educational institutes and anganwadis, (iii) prohibiting the use of recreational facilities such as, casinos, gym, and cinemas, (iii) closing three out of five check posts (border opening) for all visitors in to the state and opening the other two only for medical and police teams, and (iv) banning private industries from getting migrant workers from outside the state and avoiding large concentration of workers at one place.
On March 19, assembly of more than five people was prohibited in the state until April 15, 2020. The government ordered the suspension of all non-essential work on March 19. The supply of all essential commodities such as food grains, vegetables, sanitisers and masks was allowed. Further, the formation of a sub-divisional task force to detect suspected cases was ordered.
On March 22, the government regulated intra-state movement of private vehicles, two-wheelers and taxis on an odd-even basis (allowing plying of vehicles on alternate days as per the number plate) until April 15, 2020. The government also reduced the budget session of the state to two days on March 23.
On March 25, the central government announced on a 21-day country-wide lockdown till April 14. During the lockdown the state government took various steps for physical containment, health, financial and welfare measures. These are detailed below.
Measures taken during lockdown
Certain movement restrictions were put across the state. These include:
- Movement of vehicles: Inter-state movement of vehicles was restricted to vehicles transporting essential goods. These vehicles need to have a permanent pass for such movement. On April 5, intra-state movement of vehicles was restricted to government officials, transportation of essential commodities, banks and PSUs, and media and cable networks. Their passes are valid only from 8am to 5pm.
- Validity of passes: The state government noted that a large number of vehicle passes were issued due to various reasons. On April 14, the government ordered that all passes issued by District Magistrates, and other Departmental Authorities (except those issued by the police, health department and forest and environment department) will be invalid from April 14. New passes will be issued only by Magistrates and Block Development Officers.
- Securing borders: In view of the COVID-19 pandemic and to check unauthorised cross-border infiltration from China, Nepal, and Bhutan, the state government secured all porous borders along the Rangpo river and other vulnerable areas.
Essential Goods and Services
On April 5, the state government issued an order requiring establishments such as shops, hotels, private offices, and commercial establishments to remain closed until April 15. Establishments which were permitted to remain functional include law enforcement agencies, health services, electricity and water services, petrol pumps, and media. Shops for PDS, groceries, vegetables, milk and, medicines were only allowed remain open from 9 am to 4 pm.
- Valid prescription and label required: On March 25, the state prohibited the sale of hand sanitisers without drug manufacturing licence label. It also prohibited sale of N95 masks to general public without valid prescription.
- Transit camps: On April 17, the state government notified that transit camps (temporary accommodation) will be set up for drivers and helpers of vehicles carrying essential goods.
On March 31, the Sikkim government identified and set up dedicated isolation wards and treatment centres in the STNM hospital, Sochakgang as a precautionary measure. The government also issued directions for citizens to avoid getting infected by coronavirus. These included social distancing, and maintaining proper hygiene.
On April 18, the state government made it mandatory for all the public, students, teachers, and government employees, to install the Aarogya Setu application. The government of India launched a mobile app called ‘Aarogya Setu’ to enable people to assess the risk of catching COVID-19 on April 2, 2020. The app uses Bluetooth and Global Positioning System (GPS) based device location for contact tracing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Economic relief package: On March 27, an economic relief package was announced by the state government. This included free ration in specific quantities (other than the PDS entitlement) to needy families in rural and urban areas, daily wagers, migrant labourers, casual workers, and stranded people. Further, the government announced an additional incentive wage of Rs 300/day for tea workers at Temi-tea estate.
- Food distribution: On April 16, the government announced that Asha workers will be given Rs 5,000 as honorarium for work done during COVID-19. Further, it ordered the food and civil supply department to compile a list of all the left out beneficiaries for distribution of food relief packages.
- Relief to stranded patients: On April 16, the government announced that a financial relief of Rs 30,000 will be provided to each patient undergoing treatment and stranded outside Sikkim from the Chief Minister's relief fund.
- Relief for casual workers: On March 30, the Sikkim government issued directions to all contractors/ employers to pay migrant and casual labourers on the due date without any deductions due to the lockdown. The state government also provided grants worth Rs 2,000 to the 7,836 registered building and other construction workers in the state.
- Relief for stranded students: On March 29, the state announced that it will provide Rs 5,000 to each state student stranded outside Sikkim during the nationwide lockdown.
Certain relaxations after 20th April
On April 14, the nation-wide lockdown was further extended till May 3, 2020. On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines outlining select activities which will be permitted from April 20 onwards. These activities include health services, agriculture related activities, certain financial sector activities, operation of Anganwadis, MNREGA works, and cargo movement. Further, subject to certain conditions, commercial and private establishments, industrial establishments, government offices, and construction activities will also be permitted. The Sikkim government took the following steps in the same line.
- On April 19, the state government gave directions to all government and PSU offices to work with up to one-third of their actual staff strength from April 20 onwards.
- On April 19, the state government gave directions and standard operating procedures to be followed at manufacturing establishments, work spaces and public places post April 20. These include: (i) no overlapping shifts, (ii) staggered lunch breaks, (iii) training on good hygiene practices, (iv) compulsory wearing of face cover, and (v) sanitising workplaces between shifts.
For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.
With the spread of COVID-19, along with the central government, the state governments have also announced several policy decisions to contain and prevent the spread of the virus. In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the Uttarakhand Government in this regard as of April 16, 2020.
As of April 15, 2020, 2,413 samples have been sent for testing in Uttarakhand. Of these, 37 have been found COVID-19 positive and the results of 354 samples are awaited. Of the 37 confirmed cases, 9 patients have been cured/discharged.
To contain the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Uttarakhand took the following measures for restricting the movement of people in the state.
On March 20, the Department of Health restricted the entry of all tourists (domestic and foreign) into the state. The Department further issued orders for the closure of all educational institutions, gyms, swimming pools, museums, cultural and social centres, and theatres until March 31.
On March 22, the state announced a complete lockdown till March 31. Restrictions during the lockdown included: (i) prohibiting the gathering of more than five people at any public place, (ii) suspending all public transport including taxis and auto-rickshaws, and (iii) closure of all shops, commercial establishments, offices and factories. Establishments providing essential goods and services were excluded from the lockdown restrictions. These include: police, medical and health, print and electronic media, food, groceries, and their transportation, among others.4
On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines on the measures to be taken by state governments until May 3. As per these guidelines, select activities will be permitted from April 20 onwards, to mitigate hardship to the public due. These activities include health services, agriculture and related activities, certain financial sector activities, operation of Anganwadis, MNREGA works, and cargo movement, among others. Further, subject to certain conditions, commercial and private establishments, industrial establishments, government offices, and construction activities will also be permitted.7
Uttarakhand Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations 2020
On March 15, 2020, the government notified the Uttarakhand Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 for the containment of COVID-19 in the state. Key features of the regulations include the following:
All hospitals (government and private) must have dedicated flu corners for the screening of suspected COVID-19 cases.
The spread of any misinformation must be avoided. No person or organisation can use any print or electronic media for information regarding COVID-19 without prior permission of the state health department.
Guidelines for citizens, healthcare facilities and government departments
The state issued several guidelines and advisories on various subjects related to the containment of the virus. These guidelines have been targeted towards citizens, healthcare facilities, as well as government departments. Some of these guidelines are given below:
For citizens: These include guidelines on the use of masks by the public, guidelines for home quarantine, and advisory to not consume tobacco to prevent the virus.8
For healthcare facilities: Guidelines for health care facilities include: sample collection, packaging and transport guidelines, infection prevention control for suspected cases, clinical management of COVID – 19, and discharge policy for COVID-19 patients, among others.8
For government: Guidelines for government departments include: guidelines for cluster containment, strategy, advisory on the use of hydroxychloroquine for high-risk population, and guidelines for quarantine facilities for COVID-19.8
On March 21, the state government cancelled all leaves for employees from the Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare and ordered all the employees on leave to report back. Further, on March 19, the state government announced that the administrative control of all properties and accommodations under the tourism department and other government enterprises will be given to the respective District Magistrates, temporarily.
On March 21, the state government postponed the correction of all state board examination booklets, which were to be corrected from April 1 to April 15, 2020. The government also postponed exams for the Forest Research Institute, which were supposed to be conducted in March.
For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.
 Dehradun Health Bulletin on Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19), Status as on April 15, 2020 Time: 05:30 PM, Uttarakhand State Control Room COVID -19, Health and Family Welfare, Uttarakhand, http://health.uk.gov.in/files/Corrected-15-04-2020-Health-Bulletin.pdf.
 Order No. 48/PS-Secy(H)/2020, Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, March 20, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/427.UK_Advisory_for_Tourists_20_Mar.pdf.
 Advisory on social distancing measure in view of spread of COVID-19 disease, Government of Uttarakhand, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/1835.UK_Social_Distancing_Advisory_Uttarakhand.pdf.
 Order No. UKHFWS/PS-MDNHM/2019-20/217, Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare and Medical Education, March 22, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/432.UK_Order_Lockdown_Mar_22.pdf.
 Order No. 1-29/2020-PP, National Disaster Management Authority, March 24, 2020, https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/ndma%20order%20copy.pdf.
 “PM addresses the nation for 4th time in 4 Weeks in India’s fight against COVID-19” Press Release, Prime Minister’s office, April 14, 2020, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1614255.
 Order No.40-3/2020-DM-I(A), Ministry of Home Affairs, April 15, 2020, https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/MHA%20order%20dt%2015.04.2020%2C%20with%20Revised%20Consolidated%20Guidelines_compressed%20%283%29.pdf.
 Notification No. 370/XXVIII(1)/2020-01(06)/2020, Department of Medical Health and Medical Education, March 15, 2020, http://health.uk.gov.in/files/The_Uttarakhand__Epidemic__Disease__COVID-19_Regulation_2020.pdf.
 Website of Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, Corona (COVID19) updates, Government of Uttarakhand, last visited on March 16, http://health.uk.gov.in/pages/display/140-novel-corona-virus-guidelines-and-advisory-.
 Order No. 1P/Ra0pu0/miscellaneous/1/2018, Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, March 19, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/430.UK_DG-Order-Cancellalation_of_Leave_Health_Workers_21_Mar.pdf.
 Order No. 42/Secy Health/2020, Department of Medical, Health and Family Welfare, March 19, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/1826.UK_Advisory_for_KMVN_and_GMVN_Mar19.pdf
 Advisory No. 123/XXIV-B-5/2020/03(01)/2020, Secretary Uttarakhand Government, March 21, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/429.UK_Advisory_for_Board_Student_of_Uttarakhand_21_Mar.pdf.
 Advisory No. 122/XXIV-B-5/2020/03(01)/2020, Secretary Uttarakhand Government, March 21, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/1828.UK_Advisory_for_Board_Student_of_FRI_Uttarakhand_Mar21.pdf.