While the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has stoutly opposed the farm Bills recently passed by the Parliament, a state department had in August issued instructions for “strict implementation” of the three ordinances issued by the Centre that preceded the farm Bills, making Maharashtra one of the early states to enforce the contentious measures.
According to a two-paged notification dated August 10, issued by the state Director of Marketing Satish Soni, all agriculture produce and livestock market committees (APMCs) and district agriculture cooperatives in the state were ordered to “strictly implement” the three ordinances, which were converted into law by the Parliament.
In the wake of largescale protests by farmer outfits across India and the stance adopted by a majority of the Opposition parties during the Monsoon Session of the Parliament, MVA partners – Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress – have now indicated they plan to stall the implementation of the Bills in the state.
Last week, Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar as well as state Congress president and Revenue Minister
Balasaheb Thorat had adopted a line that these legislations won’t be enforced in the state without consultations.
The 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 – passed on June 5, were converted into law by the Parliament in the third week on September, amid vocal opposition and high drama.
The MVA partners had adopted varied stances during the debate in the Parliament. While the Congress was consistent in its vocal opposition to the passage of the Bills in the both the Houses, Sena staged a walk out during the debate in the Rajya Sabha while backing the passage of the bills in the Lok Sabha. NCP opposed the Bills in Lok Sabha but walked out of the voice vote in the Upper House.
Through Thorat, the Congress had then reached out to both Sena and NCP for a unified stance on the issue. On Sunday, Thorat had reiterated that the Bills won’t be implemented in Maharashtra, while contending that the parties were working on evolving a “joint strategy” in this regard.
NCP president Sharad Pawar and Sena MP Sanjay Raut had also congratulated the Shiromani Akali Dal for waking out of the BJP-led NDA on the contentious issue. On Monday, a Congress delegation met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to submit a memorandum demanding recall of these legislations.
Caught on the backfoot, Cooperation and Marketing Minister Balasaheb Patil said, “The state has serious reservations regarding these legislations. The government will soon take a formal decision in this regard after a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee.” But the NCP minister remained evasive when asked how orders for implementation of the Ordinances had come to be issued. Even cooperation and marketing department bureaucrats were unwilling to speak about it.
A highly-placed source, requesting anonymity, labelled the entire episode as a “goof-up at the bureaucratic level”. The notification was issued based on a note from the Union agriculture ministry and after it was forwarded to the state law department. The controversy, which also exposed the lack of coordination between the three allies, has not gone down well with senior ministers.
According to an insider, Ajit Pawar has already taken senior cooperation and marketing department officials to task over it, asking how such a decision was taken without informing the state Cabinet. A department source, however, said: “When the Ordinances were issued in June, no categorical instructions for stalling their implementation were issued by any of the coalition partners.”
Kishore Tiwari, Chairman of Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission, expressed shock at the development. Tiwari, who holds the status of an MoS, said, “Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will have to take strong action against officers who took the suo motu decision without informing the CM and the deputy CM.”
Alleging that the controversy could be a part of a larger plot, he added, “Even for non-issues, these bureaucrats are known to exercise extreme caution and often keep files pending for days. So, it is difficult to digest that on such controversial reforms, they would take quick decision and ensure the Ordinances were enforced. Some officers in the government are working in tandem with the Centre.” “The argument by some officers that it was part of routine process carried out after the Ordinances were issued cannot be justified. Several other states have not implemented them,” said Tiwari.
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