Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha passes three bills to counter farm laws enacted by Centre

The bills have sought to restore agricultural safeguards in the state in order to secure the livelihood of farmers, farm labourers and others engaged in agriculture and related activities

Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha
Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha

Prakash Bhandari

After Punjab, Rajasthan became the second state in the country to counter the farm laws enacted by the Centre by passing three bills. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had stated immediately after Punjab passed the bills that Rajasthan will also follow suit. The bills passed by the Vidhan Sabha by the ruling Congress had three amendments to counter the farm laws. These amendments were passed as it was found that the Centre’s farm laws were anti-farmers and meant to benefit the corporates.

The Farmers Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill 2020 provide for jail up to Rs 5 lakh if the trader does not accept the delivery of farm produce or not make payment within three days, and allows disputing parties to seek resolution through civil courts under the state’s APMC Act.

The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill makes minimum sales price (MSP) mandatory for contract farming; violation invokes jail of three to seven years and/or a Rs five lakh fine.

The Essential Commodities (Special provisions and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill 2020 empowers the state to fix stock limits to check hoarding and black marketing during famine, price rise, natural calamity or any other extraordinary situation.

The Code of Civil Procedure (Rajasthan amendment) Bills bars attachment or sale of debtor farmer’s land up to five acres.

The bills have sought to restore agricultural safeguards in the state through the regulatory framework of the Rajasthan Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961, in order to secure the livelihood of farmers, farm labourers and others engaged in agriculture and related activities. No farming agreement for the sale or purchase of a crop will be valid unless the price paid for the agricultural produce is equal to, or greater than, the prevailing MSP announced by the Central government, according to the Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance Bill.

The bill seeking to amend the Essential Commodities Act has 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, it has sought to give powers to the state government to regulate the production, supply and distribution and impose stock limits under extraordinary circumstances.

The House earlier rejected a proposal to send the bills for seeking public opinion. Speaker C.P. Joshi said no changes had been suggested in the provisions of the bills, which had been introduced with the stated objective of ensuring the livelihood security of farmers and protecting minimum support prices (MSP) for agricultural produce.

The House debated for nine hours on the merits and demerits of the bills. The leader of Opposition, Gulab Chand Kataria said the Congress has brought the bills just to make their leaders happy in Delhi. “If someone has worked to bring a change in the farmer’s life, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The state is going on the wrong path by introducing these bills,” he said.

Deputy leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathor said farmers pawn their land not only for farming but even to educate their children. He said majority of the farmers have less than five acres of land and with these amendments, marginal farmers will be denied loans by banks as the loaners will not be able to attach their land for non-payment.

Rathor also questioned the move to reintroduce taxes on mandis and tax even electronic platforms where the farmers bring their products for sale. He said this would harm the farmers.

Rajasthan parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal said the Union farm laws were enacted to benefit the corporates and not farmers.

Revenue minister Harish Choudhry said the Centre’s laws are a “cut-paste” of US and UK laws which were brought to benefit corporates like Walmart.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the passing of the bills was a matter of great satisfaction and for the Congress government “the welfare of the farmers is paramount”. The new Acts will help in empowering the farmers and provide them support price and protection, he said. He added that before introducing the farm bills in Parliament, the Centre should have consulted various stake-holders and agriculture experts because the Union laws will have a far-reaching impact on states.

Gehlot asserted that due legislative processes were not followed in Parliament before passing the farm bills. The bills should have been referred to select committee of Parliament. This would have provided deeper appraisals and scrutiny of the varied aspects of the issue. He said had the Union government cared, the farmers would not have taken the path to oppose the bills.

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