How Rajasthan bills bid to negate impact of Centre’s farm laws

Rajasthan's Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal introduced 3 bills in this regard on Saturday

Ashok Gehlot
Senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot said that upon coming to power in Gujarat, the party will adopt the proposed manifesto in the first Cabinet meeting itself | File Image

In tandem with the Congress leadership’s suggestion, the Ashok Gehlot government has introduced three bills in Rajasthan assembly to negate the impact of the three farm laws that were enacted by the Centre recently, angering a section of the farmers.

On Saturday (October 31), Rajasthan’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal introduced the following bills:

1. The Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill 2020,
2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill 2020, and
3. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill 2020.

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Mr. Dhariwal also introduced the Code of Procedure (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill 2020 on the first day of the Assembly session.

The bills include provisions to protect the interests of farmers, including sale or purchase of a crop under farming agreement on a price equal or greater than minimum support price (MSP) and imprisonment of three to seven years for harassment of farmers.

MSP is a form of government intervention where farmers receive a guaranteed minimum price for their crops. This acts as a safety for the farmers against any sharp fall in the farm prices. The MSP is fixed by the central government.

In the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, ensuring MSP to the farmers, a provision states:

“Provided further that no Farming Agreement for the sale or purchase of a crop shall be valid unless the price paid for such agricultural produce is equal to, or greater than, the prevailing Minimum Support Prices, announced by the Central Government for that crop.”

Apart from a few other amendments, three more sections have been added as special provisions for Rajasthan, providing for punishment for harassment of farmers and powers to the state government to give directions.

The bill proposes punishment of imprisonment from three to seven years with or without a fine of ₹5 lakh if any person, company or corporate house or any other association or body of persons harasses farmers.

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In the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, one of the proposed amendments pertains to the regulation of notified agriculture produce, which says that the state government may notify a fee on notified agricultural produce, brought or bought or sold, by a corporate or trader for trade and commerce in a trade area.

Deputy leader of opposition Rajendra Rathore has said that the BJP will oppose the bills and will prove during the debate on Monday that the central laws are in favour of farmers.

State Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised, during election campaigns, doubling the income of farmers but after winning the elections he worked to serve the interests of the corporate houses and anti-farmers legislations were enacted.

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The three central farm bills — the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — were passed by Parliament recently. Subsequently, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bills. The Centre has asserted that these new laws will be beneficial for farmers and will increase their income.

The Congress leadership had earlier suggested that the state governments led by the party should pass laws of their own to counter the central legislations.

Rajasthan’s move comes after the Punjab Assembly earlier this month adopted a resolution against the farm laws and unanimously passed four bills to counter the contentious central legislations. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had then said that Rajasthan would follow Punjab in bypassing the “anti-farmer laws.”

(With inputs from agencies)