Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said he was willing to resign if the Centre felt that passing bills in the state Assembly against the three central agricultural laws was an act of rebellion. “I have resigned earlier too and have no qualms in resigning again to defend the interests of Punjab’s farmers,” he said, according to The Tribune.
Singh along with Aam Aadmi Party MLA Harpal Singh Cheema and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Sharan Jit Singh Dhillon handed over the resolution against farm laws passed in the state Assembly to Governor VP Singh Badnore. “Punjab’s voice has reached the Governor, he’ll pass it on to President,” said Singh. “I don’t care about President’s Rule. You want to sack my government? Sack my government, I don’t give a damn. I am doing this for farmers of the state and the country.”
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.
UP farmers forced to sell paddy below MSP, claims Priyanka Gandhi
Meanwhile, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday alleged that farmers in Uttar Pradesh were forced to sell paddy at lower than the minimum support price. The minimum support price, or MSP, is a welfare scheme in which the Union government pays a predetermined price delinked from market rates for specific crops, thereby subsidising them.
“The BJP government is holding a government Khat Sammelan over the bills which are against the interest of the farmers, but is not listening to the pain of the farmers,” she tweeted in Hindi. “In almost all the places in UP, farmers are forced to sell their paddy crops at Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,100 per quintal, about Rs 800 less than the Rs 1,868 per quintal MSP.”
She posted a video of a farmer alleging corruption in crop procurement at the Mohammadi Khiri mandi. “This is when there is a guarantee for MSP, think what will happen when this guarantee is not there,” she added.
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.