The amendments proposed by the Centre to the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act seem quite close to the provisions that already exist in Punjab’s amended APMC Act of 2017.
Experts said that Centre has taken things from the state APMC Act, but it has not proposed enough changes to make the law better for farmers. They added that it would be better for Centre to cancel the farm laws. They said that even on the issue of Minimum Support Price (MSP), the state’s law is stronger than the Centre’s proposal.
In its proposal, Centre has said that state governments would be allowed to impose the fee on the private mandis. Secondly, state government can register the traders in the private mandis according to the local conditions and further farmers will have the right to approach the civil court, and Kurki will not take place to safeguard the land of farmers and MSP will continue as per the existing MSP system.
Punjab’s APMC Act (amended in 2017) already has a provision of imposing cess/fee like RDF (Rural Development Funds) on sale/purchase in the notified private market yards. So what’s new in this proposal of the government, said experts.
Even renowned economist Sardara Singh Johal said: “We had already stated about it that even if the farmers are selling their crop outside the APMC yards then purchase tax and market fee should be charged from the buyers. Further, such funds must be shown in the budget of the state and be used for the development works of the state….If the government will not make any such provision then it will face a major problem for its development in rural areas.”
Centre is asking for registration of traders in such mandis, while state’s Act has a provision for a unified licence system for the big companies for the entry in the trade of crops, food processing. Rather state’s Act says that only a licence holder from the government after meeting the provisions laid under the APMC Act can do trade in private mandis, which would be three types including one, three and 10 acres and not meant for selling wheat and paddy, but fruits vegetables, wood, flowers and livestock, and the farmers can sell their product in private or PMB mandis as per their wish.
“Centre has not given any proposal of amendment in the trade area mentioned in Centre’s Bill which included farmers’ doorstep, traders’ own premises or at farmer’s fields anywhere beyond the notified market yard,” said a senior officer in PMB.
Punjab’s Act has a provision of payment to the farmers in 48 hours, and if the trader fails to pay the farmer on time then the matter can also be resolved through the Market Committee of the PMB or by presenting the case to the Secretary, Agriculture. The concerned Deputy Commissioner (DC) also has the power to sell any property of the trader to pay the dues of farmers. Finally, the matter can also reach the court for settlement. And now Centre is also proposing to provide the facility of civil court to the farmers apart from to SDM or DC court. Even in case of a high fluctuation of prices, there is a provision of setting up a ‘Price Stabilisation Fund’ by the state government but the Centre has no proposal on it.
The Centre is again saying that existing system of the MSP will continue, the Punjab government has already gone ahead here too (though cover two crops only wheat and paddy) by passing its own Bill in October in which it had said that no persons, corporate, company can purchase the crop below the MSP and if they do so they will be punished with imprisonment of not less than three years and a fine if he sings a contract where in farmers is compelled to sell his produce at the less that the MSP. Experts feel that government should have covered all the crops, not only wheat and paddy here.
“Our doubts were not cleared by the government regarding the role of corporate houses, MNCs, development of the private mandis and on Contract farming with Companies. Also, the government should have written with more clarity about the Kurki etc,” said Jagmohan Singh, general Secretary of Bharti Kisan Union (BKU), Dakaunda.
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