January 16, 2021 10:31:53 pm
The Maharashtra cabinet sub-committee set up to look into the issue of Centre’s farm laws has decided to study the pro-farmer laws enacted by the Punjab government.
According to highly-placed sources in the government, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government is not in a hurry to make any final decision as the situation is evolving, with the intervention of the Supreme Court, which has put a stay on the implementation of the laws.
In September 2020, the state government had set up a cabinet sub-committee, led by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, to take a decision on the three farm laws. The other members in the committee included Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil, Cooperative Minister Balasaheb Patil, Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, Public Works Department Minister Ashok Chavan, Dairy Development and Animal Husbandry Minister Sunil Kedar, Agriculture Minister Dadasaheb Bhuse and Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde.
But in the last four months, the cabinet sub-committee has held just one meeting. In the sole meeting, held in December, preliminary discussions were held and the panel’s agenda was outlined.
A senior officer in the Cooperation department told The Indian Express, “The sub-committee has taken the decision to study the laws which have been passed by the Punjab Assembly. A group of officials, along with ministers in the sub-committee, will study and ascertain the practical aspects of these laws.”
Punjab, which has been leading the farmers’ agitation against the Centre’s farm laws, has also framed its own laws on MSP (minimum support price) and other provisions.
The three laws are as follows:
The Farmers Producers Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Special Provision and Punjab Amendment Bill 2020, which seeks to ensure that sale and purchase of wheat or paddy is not allowed below MSP. If this law is violated, the offender can face a prison term of not less than three years and a fine.
Farmers empowerment and Protection Agreement on Price Assurance and Farms Service (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill 2020 makes it mandatory for those entering into contract farming with farmers to pay the MSP or a price over the MSP. Its violation would attract a three-year jail term.
Essential Commodities (Special Provision and Punjab Amendment) Bill 2020 specifies that no punitive action shall be taken against any person violating provision of the central act and all notice issued by the central govt under its provision shall be deemed suspended.
Apart from these, the Code of Civil Pocedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill 2020 provides relief to farmers against attachment of land upto 2.5 acres. It also has provisions for prevention of hoarding and black-marketing of food grain.
Parties of the ruling MVA — Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena — have expressed solidarity with the farmers’ agitation. Last December, the state cabinet had decided not to implement the Centre’s farm laws.
However, unlike Kerala and Punjab, which moved a resolution in the Assembly to reject the three laws, Maharashtra has taken a middle path and set up a sub-committee to look into the issue in greater detail.
“Unlike other states, we already have an Act since 2010 allowing private market committees to operate. Almost 138 licences to these private APMCs are being issued regularly. Moreover, contract farming is also underway,” admitted a source in the APMC.
The state, which has 305 APMCs and Rs 50,000 crore annual turnover from them, can’t outright reject or replicate any law. The sub-committee’s role is to, therefore, analyse every detail.
While the Congress, NCP and Sena have, in principle. demanded MSP for farmers, they are not willing to commit on bringing a law making violation of MSP payment a criminal offence.
A senior NCP leader and state minister said, “While Punjab’s laws are very farmer-friendly, extending imprisonment for three years for non-MSP payment needs to be viewed closely.”
The state government can’t promise even 50 per cent crop procurement from farmers if APMCs or private players refuse to buy stock from farmers. A stringent act should serve, and not hurt, farmers’ income, pointed out the leader.
“Such complex issues related to APMCs and farmers cannot be taken hurriedly. We have to ensure that the decisions taken serve the larger interest of farmers,” said Cooperation Minister Patil.
Another minister, who is also a member of the sub-committee, said, “We want to wait and watch to see if there are amendments in the three laws in the upcoming Budget session of Parliament.”
Farmers’ leader Raju Shetti, who heads the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, said, “Although every state can reject the laws and evolve new rules in favour of farmers, it will not work, as traders will find ways to manipulate the system or choose the states accordingly. Therefore, the Centre should be made to roll back the anti-farmer laws.”
“The Centre should make MSP mandatory and its violation a criminal offence. This should be included within the ambit of the law passed in Parliament,” he added.
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