Maharashtra Government Introduces 3 Bills To Counter Centre’s Farm Laws



Maharashtra Government Introduces 3 Bills To Counter Centre's Farm Laws

Bills will be taken up for discussion and passage during winter session of legislature (Representational)


The Shiv Sena-led MVA government in Maharashtra on Tuesday introduced three amendment bills in the assembly related to agriculture, co-operation, food and civil supplies, in a move to counter the new farm laws enacted by the Centre that are facing stiff opposition from a section of cultivators.

The bills have provisions for higher than MSP rate for produce in farming agreement with traders, timely payment of dues, three-year jail term and Rs 5 lakh fine or both for harassment of farmers.
They also have provisions to give power to the state government to regulate and prohibit production, supply, distribution and impose stock limits on essential commodities.

Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said the central farm acts were passed without discussion and several of their provisions encroach on rights of state governments.

“The state government has right to make laws and we want to suggest amendments to the central agriculture laws which we feel are anti-farmer,” he said.

The bills which have been placed in public domain for two months for suggestions and objections are – Essential Commodities (Amendment), Farmers (Empowerment and Protection), Guarantee Price; Agriculture Related Agreements (Maharashtra Amendment) and Amendments to Central Government Farmer Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation).

However, the opposition BJP termed the proposed amendments as “minor” and maintained they have already been incorporated in the laws passed by Parliament in September last year.

The draft bills have been prepared by a cabinet sub-committee headed by deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.

Mr Pawar said the draft bills will be in public domain for two months during which all stakeholders can hold discussions and debates on their provisions.

The bills will be taken up for discussion and passage during the winter session of the legislature in Nagpur (held in December), he said.

Agriculture Minister Dada Bhuse said farming agreements (between traders and farmers) will be considered invalid if the price of agri produce being offered is not more than the MSP (minimum support price).

If the farmer is not paid in seven days of sale of his produce, a criminal offence can be lodged against the trader and punishments include three year in jail and Rs 5 lakh penalty, Mr Bhuse said.

Co-operation minister Balasaheb Patil said under the central acts, there is no control over trader in case of a default in payment to farmer after sale of agriculture produce.

To ensure farmers get remunerative price for their agriculture produce within time and to protect their interests, the state government has decided to amend the Centre’s Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act in its application to Maharashtra, Mr Patil said.

The draft bill proposes that no trader shall trade in any scheduled agri produce unless he has a valid licence from the competent authority, Mr Patil said.

In any dispute arising out of a transaction between a farmer and a trader, parties may seek solution by filing an application to the competent authority and an appeal against the order of competent authority to the appellate authority, he said.

For harassment of farmers punishment is not less than three years imprisonment and fine of not less than Rs 5 lakh or both, he said.

Food and civil supplies minister Chhagan Bhujbal said in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 – which has been amended by the Centre – there is no provision for the state government to regulate or prohibit production, supply, distribution, imposing stock limits under extraordinary circumstances which may include famine, price rise or natural calamity.

He said the state government proposes to amend the act in its application to Maharashtra and assume power to regulate and prohibit production, supply, distribution and impose stock limits.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Devendra Fadnavis said the state’s bills have minor amendments which the Centre had already included in its agri-marketing laws.

Talking to reporters, Fadnavis said the central government has been repeatedly saying there was no need to scrap the new farm laws but it was ready for amendments in them.

“The amendments suggested by the state government have already been accepted by the Centre,” the BJP leader said.

The former chief minister said out of the three central farm acts, two already exist in Maharashtra.

Referring to the issue of MSP, Fadnavis said the Centre has already made it clear that there will be no trade (selling) at a price lower than the MSP (fixed by the Union government) of a farm produce.

“The state government has put this clause and at the same time said farmers and traders can enter into an agreement for price lesser than MSP for a minimum period of two years with mutual consent.

“Prices of crops which don”t have MSP will have to be fixed through mutual consent,” the BJP leader said.

The new agri laws of the Centre seek to encourage private trade, contract farming and remove stock limit on foodgrains.

These laws have been projected by the Modi government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

Farmers have been protesting against the laws outside Delhi for the last more than seven months. They have expressed apprehension the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the mandis, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

The Centre has repeatedly asserted that these mechanisms will remain in place.

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