Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday night said his government will introduce a bill against the Centre’s contentious farm laws. This came hours after the Punjab Assembly adopted a resolution against the legislations.
The state council of ministers decided to hold a special session of the Legislative Assembly soon. Amendment bills will be brought to preserve the interests of the farmers, said an official statement. Earlier, the Congress high command had suggested states where the party is in power should pass laws on their own to negate the central legislations.
Chief Minister Gehlot said they were examining how to do it. “We want to protect the interests of farmers,” he told The Indian Express.
The council, which met at Gehlot’s residence, discussed the importance of the Minimum Support Price for crops. It said that that doing away with the cap on stock of various agricultural commodities after the implementation of the new agricultural laws will increase black marketing, unauthorised storage and rise in prices.
Punjab on Tuesday became the first state in the country to formally reject the Centre’s contentious agriculture laws that were assented last month, with the state Assembly unanimously passing a resolution against them. The House also passed three farm amendment bills of their own to counter the central laws, along with a fourth amendment for exempting farmers from attachment of land up to 2.5 acres. One of the bills provides for imprisonment of not less than three years for the sale or purchase of wheat or paddy below the minimum support price. The bill also makes forcing farmers to sell below MSP punishable. The bills, however, need the assent of the governor before they become laws. The governor could withhold assent and refer them to the president.
Another Congress-ruled state, Chhattisgarh, too plans to follow suit. However, Governor Anusuiya Uikey returned the state government’s proposal to convene a special Assembly session in October-end, reported The Indian Express. He pointed out that the Monsoon Session had concluded only 58 days ago.
The state government has now sent a revised proposal to the governor. “We wanted to hold a special session because the laws passed by the central government, on agriculture, contract farming, labour and the Essential Commodities Act, go against the people of Chhattisgarh,” Chhattisgarh Legislative Affairs and Agriculture Minister Ravindra Choubey told The Indian Express. “But the governor has sent back the file with a query, seeking details of the Bills. I have sent all the details. We hope the governor will give the approval.”
The three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – were passed in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.
A month later, protests against the laws continue to be staged in many parts of the country. When two of the legislations were tabled during a chaotic session in Parliament on September 20, some Opposition MPs claimed that they would prove to be the “death warrant” for the agricultural sector.
Taken together, the three legislations loosen regulations on the sale, pricing and storage of agricultural produce. They allow farmers to sell outside mandis notified by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee. They enable contract farming through deals with private sector companies. They take food items like cereals and pulses off the list of essential commodities, lifting stock limits on such produce.
The government claims the new laws would give farmers the freedom to sell in the open market. But farmers disagree. They say the laws will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, leave farmers to the mercy of market forces and threaten food security.
Most Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations across the country have strongly opposed the bills. The Shiromani Akali Dal, one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest allies, pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance in protest against these bills.