Updated: July 6, 2021 8:50:47 pm
The Maha Vikas Aghadi government Tuesday tabled three amendment bills in the Maharashtra Assembly to strengthen the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMCs) and make minimum support price (MSP) and license for traders procuring farm produce from land tillers in Maharashtra mandatory.
The move is seen as an attempt to counter the three farm laws enacted by the Centre, which have been facing stiff opposition from a section of cultivators. The government, however, has refrained from passing a resolution in the legislative assembly against the Centre’s farm laws and demanding its total repeal.
“In the central Act, there is no provision for making farming agreement on MSP,” state agriculture minister Dadasaheb Bhuse said. He added that the state government’s draft bills have provisions for rates higher than or equivalent to MSP for produce in farming agreements with traders.
“Farming agreement shall not be valid unless the price paid to farmer is equal to or greater than MSP. The farmer and sponsor can make a farming agreement below MSP with mutual consent for a maximum period of two years. For crops where MSP has not been declared till then, farmers and sponsors may enter into a farming agreement on the mutually agreed price,” the draft bills state.
In case of a dispute over the farming agreement between farmers and sponsors, “the parties may approach a competent authority”. It further makes harassment of farmers a punishable offence with “imprisonment of not less than three years and a fine of not less than five lakh or both”.
The Bills also have provisions to give power to the state government to regulate and prohibit production, supply, distribution and impose stock limits on essential commodities.
Currently, the three Bills — Essential Commodities (Amendment), Farmers (Empowerment and Protection), Guarantee Price; Agriculture Related Agreements (Maharashtra Amendment); and Amendments to Central Government Farmer Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) — have been placed in the public domain for two months for inviting suggestions and objections. The draft bills were prepared by a cabinet sub-committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
Under the proposed amendments to the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, state cooperation minister Balasaheb Patil said no trader will be allowed to trade in any scheduled farmers produce unless they have a valid license issued by a competent authority. Under the central Acts, he said, there is no control over traders in case of a default in payment to farmers after the sale of agricultural produce. To ensure farmers get remunerative prices for their agricultural produce within time and to protect their interests, the state government has decided to amend the Centre’s Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act in its application to Maharashtra, Patil said.
The draft bill also proposes stringent punishment to traders cheating farmers. “A provision for punishment of imprisonment of not less than three years and a fine of not less than five lakh or both for harassment to a farmer,” it states.
Food and civil supplies minister Chhagan Bhujbal said in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 — which has been amended by the Centre — there is no provision for the state government to regulate or prohibit the production, supply, distribution, imposing stock limits under extraordinary circumstances which may include famine, price rise or natural calamity.
He said the state government proposes to amend the Act in its application to Maharashtra and assume the power to “regulate or prohibit the production, supply, distribution, imposing stock limits under extraordinary circumstances, which may include famine, price rise, natural calamity”.
The Deputy Chief Minister said the state government was not taking any hasty decision on pushing the farm law amendments. “On the contrary, it has placed it for deliberations for various farmer organisations, experts, and citizens. After a meticulous study, all the relevant suggestions or objections would be considered.”
Earlier, the All India Kisan Sabha Coordination Committee had urged the government to pass a resolution against central laws and demand its total repeal. On Tuesday, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti said, “Instead of piecemeal changes, the state government should have demanded the withdrawal of the central laws. Any amendment will have limitations as the structure will remain intact. The state government could have brought a new farm law altogether and set an example for the entire country.”
MVA govt has given nod to Centre’s farm laws: Fadnavis
Mumbai: Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Devendra Fadnavis Tuesday said the Maha Vikas Aghadi government has given consent to the Centre’s three farm laws “albeit with minor amendments”.
“By not passing a resolution against central farm laws, the government has given its nod,” Fadnavis said, adding there was no other way, as Maharashtra had already enforced some laws even before the Centre passed them in Lok Sabha in 2020.
“Even the central government had said it was willing to incorporate some changes in the farm laws, including MSP… By making MSP mandatory, the state amendment bill allows farmers and sponsors to make agreements below MSP with mutual consent for a maximum of two years. It also allows them to determine the agreed price for crops where MSP is not declared,” the former chief minister said.
Referring to the amendment that makes license mandatory for trading in fruits and vegetables, etc, he said, “In 2016, the BJP-led state government had allowed open market policy for vegetables and fruits. It was no longer necessary for farmers to sell their vegetables and fruits in APMCs alone. They were allowed to choose the market.”
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