As the Punjab Assembly passed Bills to counter the central government’s farm laws, Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh’s plan to follow suit ran into rough weather with Governor Anusuiya Uikey questioning the state government’s proposal to convene a special House session in October-end.
A third Congress-ruled state, Rajasthan, is also planning to convene an Assembly session to pass a legislation to nullify the farm laws. “We will convene the Assembly soon,” Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot told The Indian Express. Later, the Rajasthan Cabinet said it has decided to call a special session of the Assembly “to protect the interests of the farmers”.
Last month, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had directed party-ruled states to explore the possibility of passing Bills to “bypass” and “negate” provisions of the contentious farm laws. The party high command had even circulated a draft Bill to the states.
Article 254(2) of the Constitution allows a state to make changes to central legislation on a subject on the concurrent list only if it gets Presidential assent. The Congress does not expect President Ram Nath Kovind to clear any move to circumvent the new farm laws but its leadership believes that party-ruled states passing a counter Bill would be “a strong political statement”.
On Tuesday, returning the proposal sent by the Chhattisgarh Cabinet to convene the Assembly on October 27 and 28, Governor Uikey pointed out that the Monsoon Session had concluded only 58 days ago. The Chhattisgarh government is also planning to bring a Bill to nullify the new labour laws passed by the central government.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Chhattisgarh Legislative Affairs and Agriculture Minister Ravindra Choubey said his government has sent a revised proposal to the Governor.
“We wanted to hold a special session because the laws passed by the central government, on agriculture, contract farming, labour and the Essential Commodities Act, go against the people of Chhattisgarh…But the Governor has sent back the file with a query, seeking details of the Bills. I have sent all the details. We hope the Governor will give the approval… The Supreme Court has made it clear that the Governor cannot make any change in dates sought by a duly elected government, which enjoys the majority, for convening the Assembly,” he said.
Choubey said the government plans to make “three-four amendments…to protect farmers from the ill-effects of the central laws”.
He said the state government also plans to bring Bills to nullify the labour laws. “The central government has not notified the labour laws passed by Parliament, so we cannot bring any Bill immediately. But we plan to bring a Bill because the workers are getting impacted by the labour laws,” Choubey said.
The Minister said that “consumers are getting affected because of the changes in the Essential Commodities Act”. “But we cannot make any changes…it is not a state subject. We are consulting legal experts to understand which state laws can be amended to save consumers,” he said.
The Chhattisgarh Governor’s comment on the file sent by the government is being seen as another point of contention between the state and the Governor.
Last week, the Governor had written to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel asking for a full-time panel of officers at Raj Bhavan. Following the letter, two state Ministers had reached out to the Governor and Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu denied any differences between the two sides.
Meanwhile, asked whether his government is planning to pass its own farm Bills, Rajasthan Chief Minister Gehlot said: “We are examining how to do it. We want to protect the interests of farmers. I had a meeting yesterday where I reviewed the issue. We have sought the opinion of the Advocate General. We have also sought the views of the Agriculture (department)…agricultural marketing. We will take a decision taking into consideration all their views,” he said.
Gehlot also chaired the Cabinet meeting where the impact of the Centre’s laws was discussed. Gehlot tweeted: “INC under the leadership of Smt Sonia Gandhi ji and Rahul Gandhi ji stands resolutely with our annadatas and will continue to oppose the anti-farmer laws passed by NDA Govt. Today Congress Govt in Punjab has passed Bills against these laws and Rajasthan will follow soon.”
According to a statement from the Rajasthan government, the Cabinet has decided to call an Assembly session “soon” to discuss the impact of the central laws and the “desired amendment Bills” to be brought.
It said that the Cabinet emphasised the need to mandatorily purchase crops on Minimum Support Price (MSP) and continue with the system of deciding disputes between farmers and businessmen through mandi samitis and civil courts. It said that discussions were held on providing MSP in the Contract Farming Act.
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