The Rajasthan government on Monday became the second state to formally reject the Centre’s farm laws, PTI reported.
The Rajasthan Assembly passed the three bills by voice vote after a marathon nine-hour-long debate. The Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs staged a walkout ahead of the voting, claiming the state government has no powers to bring such bills, according to The Hindu.
Punjab, another Congress ruled state, had approved similar amendments on October 20.
Rajasthan Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal said that the entire country was against the farm laws enacted by the Narendra Modi government. “I can say it with guarantee that all three farm laws will have to be withdrawn just like the Land Acquisition Act,” Dhariwal said during the debate.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said the Centre’s legislations were not introduced in Parliament suddenly. The BJP leader said the laws were made after taking into account recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, which speaks about one nation, one market, contract farming and abolition of indirect market taxes.
“The Congress has brought the bills in the Rajasthan Assembly just to make their leaders in New Delhi happy,” he added. “If someone has worked to bring a change in farmers’ life, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
The three bills passed by the House are the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill 2020.
The first bill seeks to restore agricultural safeguards in the state through the regulatory framework of the Rajasthan Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961, to secure the livelihood of farmers and those engaged in agriculture activities. The bill has a provision for punishment for those who force a farmer to sell his produce below the minimum support price, but this is limited only to contract farming, according to The Indian Express. Most farmers in Rajasthan sell their produce to mandis in comparison to contract farming.
Meanwhile, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020, mentions that harassment of farmers will be punishable by imprisonment or fine. But it does not make it clear whether purchase below MSP will be deemed as harassment. The second bill also does not mention any specific crops. Punjab had clearly stated the bill is to ensure that sale or purchase of wheat or paddy will not be allowed below the MSP.
The bills, however, need the assent of the governor before they become laws. The governor could withhold assent and refer them to the president.
The Parliament had passed 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 – in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.
Protests had erupted against the laws 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 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.