Other States

Rajasthan tables bills to counter Central farms laws

The Congress government in Rajasthan on Saturday introduced three Bills in the State Assembly to stop the applicability of the three, new agriculture sector legislations enacted by the Centre recently. The Amendment Bills have several provisions to address the farmers' concerns about livelihood security and the minimum support prices (MSP) regime.

The Bills were tabled following a similar move in the Punjab Assembly, where a resolution against the farm laws was adopted and four Bills were passed last week to counter the Central legislations. The Rajasthan Cabinet had recently decided to convene a special session of the Assembly to protect the interests of farmers.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal tabled the three Bills on the first day of the session along with another Bill seeking to amend the Civil Procedure Code for protecting the agriculturists' land measuring up to 5 acres against attachment and sale in execution of a decree issued by the court in the cases of monetary award.

The three Bills pertaining to the State amendments to the Central statutes are the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill 2020.

The first Bill sought to restore agricultural safeguards in the State through the regulatory framework of the Rajasthan Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961, to secure the livelihood of farmers, farm labourers and others engaged in agriculture and related activities. It has provided for imprisonment of three to seven years along with fine for harassment of farmers.

The proposed legislation also stated that no farming agreement for the sale or purchase of a crop would be valid unless the price paid for the agricultural produce was equal to, or greater than, the prevailing MSP announced by the Central government.

The second Bill sought to make an amendment for levying of fee or cess on notified agricultural produce bought by a corporate or trader and for resolution of disputes between the farmer and a trade through the Agricultural Produce Markets Act. The powers of civil courts in dispute resolution will be restored through this provision.

The third Bill proposed to protect the consumers from hoarding and black-marketing of agricultural produce and secure the interests of farmers. Unlike the Central Act which had removed the ceiling on the stock of farm commodities, the Bill sought to give powers to the State government to regulate the production, supply and distribution and impose stock limits under extraordinary circumstances.

According to the statement of objects and reasons for the Bills, the Parliament had introduced a mechanism which was “vulnerable to encroachment and manipulation” by vested corporate interests, leaving the farmers open to the vagaries of market forces. There was no guarantee for MSP and no check against exploitation of farmers, it said.

“There has been [an] extraordinary outrage among the farmers, farm labourers and others... The direct consequence of the Central Acts will be to nullify the MSP mechanism that has stood the test of time and introduce several other infirmities and distortions operating to the grave detriment and prejudice of agriculture and the communities associated with it,” said the statement.

While affirming that agriculture, land and markets were the primary legislative domain of the State falling under Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the State government said the Central Acts were beyond the legislative competence of the Parliament. “The State government can amend the Central Acts in exercise of its powers vested under Article 254(2) of the Constitution,” it said.

The Assembly was adjourned till Monday after obituary references on the death of former President Pranab Mukherjee and some other leaders following the introduction of Bills. Senior BJP MLA Rajendra Rathore, who is Deputy Leader of Opposition, said the Central laws were in favour of farmers and added that his party would prove its stand during the debate in the House.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had recently questioned the intent of the BJP government at the Centre behind bringing the “black legislations” during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the Bills had been tabled without any discussion with the State governments and other stakeholders and passed in a “questionable manner”.

Large sections of farmers in the State have been opposing the farm laws and the agriculturists' groups staged demonstrations and participated in rallies during the Bharat bandh called on the issue last month. Small and marginal farmers have expressed apprehensions about the impact of these legislations on their livelihood, MSP, public distribution system and Krishi Upaj Mandis.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 4:10:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/rajasthan-tables-bills-to-counter-central-farms-laws/article32993445.ece

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