Recently, the Agricultural Minister of Union, Narendra Singh Tomar, introduced three Farm Bills in the legislature which triggered massive debates all around the country. The three controversial bills have created an atmosphere of debated nationwide followed by protests by farmers and opposition parties. Amid all these intensifying protests, President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to these bills on Sunday, September 24. Following this, the bills will become a law and will come into force immediately.
The farm organisations have protested because they felt that the laws will affect their bargaining capacities. The highlight of the unrest was the belief that the existing minimum support price (MSP) regime will be withdrawn. However, the government has clearly stated that the MSP regime will continue to exist and that the existence of these reform bills, which are now laws, will only lift up the restrictions on selling produce within agriculture Mandis; in turn, giving farmers greater freedom to sell to whomever they want, wherever they want and whatever they want.
The three bills are-
- The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (promotion and facilitation) Bill, 2020– It aims to allow the sale of agricultural products outside the agricultural produce marketing committees (APMC) Mandis. these committees are constituted by different state legislations.
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020– This bill AIMS at providing the opportunities for contract farming.
- The Essential Commodities Amendment Bill 2020– It aims to regulate the production, distribution and supply of several food items such as pulses potatoes, onion, and cereals.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has said that the passage of the bills is a ‘watershed’ moment in the history of India’s agricultural sector and will empower farmers nationwide.
However, the opposition has been continuously scrutinizing the government for the bill (which they think fails to protect farmer interests) as well as for the way the bills were passed calling the legislation ‘anti-farmer’ and ‘unconstitutional’. The previous week, the opposition also wrote to the president a request letter asking him to not give his assent and return the bills. They asked him to pass them only after the due procedures are followed. As a way to protest, NDA’s oldest ally, Shiromani Akali Dal, has left the NDA government and has supported the opposition stating that this legislation would be against the interests of the farmers.
SITUATION IN PUNJAB-
Despite all the opposition faced, the bill has finally become law on Sunday after being passed by the president. Still, the protests don’t seem to stop, especially in agriculture-dependent areas like Haryana and Punjab. On Sunday, the Punjab farmers blocked the Amritsar-Delhi railway tracks. They have already been organising a sit-in on the railway tracks in Punjab since last Wednesday under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh committee. The train movement in Punjab remains suspended on Saturday as a result of of the “Rail Roko” agitation going on for 3 days in Punjab.
Seeing the unrest in Punjab, the SAD president, Sukhbir Badal, has suggested to captain Amrinder Singh (the chief minister of Punjab) to declare the whole state as a ‘Principal Market Yard’. Declaring Punjab a principal market yard would nullify the negative impacts of the agricultural bills.
What is the Principal Market Yard?
As per the Punjab agriculture produce Market committee act, Punjab Mandi board heads three types of yards. These yards are:
- Principal market yard
- Sub Yard
- Purchase centres
According to the act, the Punjab Mandi board has 287 sub yards, 151 principal market yards and more than 1400 purchase centres (small mandis). These yards have proper infrastructure which is inclusive of civic amenities, office buildings, canteen, platform, shirts as well as electrification and public health facilities.
What will happen if the entire state is declared a Principal Market Yard?
As per the experts if the entire State of Punjab is declared as principal market yard then the purchaser would have to pay the same taxes outside the yards and even in private trade areas. However it is still not very clear what exactly happens, but at the moment it can be said that anybody who will purchase from farmers anywhere in Punjab (either in PMB yards or outside) would be required to pay the same amount of taxes.
Is it even possible to declare the whole Punjab as Principal Mandi Yard?
The experts say that before declaring the whole Punjab as principal Mandi the government would have to to see the legal aspects of such a move.
It is probably possible under Punjab’s own APMC act. But the bigger question is not how it would declare the entire State as a market yard but how efficiently will it be able to manage it.
The government would have to develop a massive system to bring every purchase of farm produce under one tax regime in the state.
A great implication of this step could be that the Centre, which purchases Punjab’s wheat and paddy, may not support this step of nullifying its Bills. It could decide to not purchase from the state leading to the loss of an annual expenditure of Rs 65,000 crore to the state.
SITUATION IN OTHER STATES-
Chhattisgarh chief minister, Bhupesh Baghel, on Sunday termed the passage of three bills in the legislation as unconstitutional and said that 8A resolution will be brought in the next session of the assembly which would oppose them. He also said that the government it brought these bills through the “back door”, especially at a time when we are in the middle of a pandemic.
Minister of revenue of the Government of Maharashtra, Balasaheb Thorat, said that these bills passed by the government are anti farmers and Maha Vikas Aghadi and Shiv Sena I will oppose them and not implement them in Maharashtra.