Topic: General Studies 3:
- Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure,
- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of farmers
Punjab’s three new farm Bills
Context: To nullify the possible impact of the three farm acts passed by the Parliament, the Punjab government not only rejected the laws by a unanimous resolution but also passed three farm amendment Bills removing Punjab from the ambit of the central laws.
The three bills passed by Punjab Legislature are as follows:
- Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Strengthens MSP: One of the key provision of this bill is that the sale of wheat and paddy shall be valid only if the seller pays a price equal to or greater than the MSP announced by the central government.
- Protects MSP through Punishments: Stating that one of the direct consequences of the central Act will be to nullify the MSP mechanism, this Bill also provides for punishment to sellers who buy wheat or paddy at less than the MSP.
- Grievance Redressal: This Bill also allows the farmer to approach a civil court, besides seeking remedies available under the central act in case of any differences with the buyer of his produce.
- Levy of Market Fees: While the central law abolished any market fees or licences for private players outside the APMCs, the Punjab bill have reintroduced it.These fees will go towards a fund for the welfare of small and marginal farmers
- Objective: The Bill seeks to address the fears of state farmers about being forced to sell their produce at less than the minimum support price (MSP)
- Against Spirit of Free Market: This law has been passed to meet the demands of the farmers, and will discourage private players to participate in food procurement
- Cereal Centric: The benefits should have covered the whole gamut of crops where the state has marketable surplus of cotton, maize, some pulses and even milk and also for which the state decides the MSP.
- The Farmer’s Produce and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment Bill 2020?
- It declares status quo in the state with regard to the APMC Act 2016.
- By bringing the entire state under APMC ambit, the Bill ensures that the private players will also be regulated by the rules of government mandis.
- The Bill also states that no punitive action will be taken against anyone for violating the provisions of the central Act
- Amendments in The Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Amendment) Bill, 2020
- Objective: This Bill aims to protect consumers from hoarding and black marketing of agri produce.
- Voices opinion against Central Act: Underlining that production, supply, and distribution of goods is also a state subject, the Bill claims the central Act seeks to give unlimited power of stocking essential commodities to traders.
- Power to regulate trade: The state of Punjab will have the power to order, provide for regulating or prohibiting the production, supply, distribution, and imposing stock limits under extraordinary circumstances, which may include famine, price rise, natural calamity or any other situation.
Significance of the bills
- The three Bills mention the agriculture census 2015-16 to underline that 86.2% of farmers in the state are small and marginal, with the majority owning less than two acres of land.
- Consequently, they have limited access to multiple markets, and lack the negotiation power needed to operate in a private market.
- All the three Bills underscore the importance of farmers getting a level playing field in the form of a fair price guarantee.
- The Bills also point out that agriculture, agricultural markets, and land is the primary legislative domain of the state.
Will these Bills supersede Central Bills?
- Apart from the Governor, the Punjab government’s new farm Bills need the assent of the President since they seek to amend laws passed by the central government.
- If not, they can at best serve as a symbolic political statement against the Centre’s farm laws.
- Politics now threatens to complicate the process of providing remunerative prices to agricultural produce.
Both Central and State government need to set aside their politics so as to provide adequate safety nets to farmers in the wake of agriculture facing threats from Climate Change.