The Shiv Sena-led MVA government in Maharashtra on July 6, 2021, introduced three amendment bills in the assembly related to agriculture, food and civil supplies, co-operation. These three bills are directed to counter the Centre’s farm laws.
Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat expressed that the Centre’s farm laws were passed without discussion and several of the provisions of the central farm laws encroach on the 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,” Thorat further said.
What are the three amendment bills introduced?
• Three amendment bills have been put in the public domain for two months during which all stakeholders can hold discussions for suggestions and objections:
(i) Essential Commodities (Amendment), Farmers (Empowerment and Protection), Guarantee Price,
(ii) Agriculture related Agreements (Maharashtra Amendment),
(iii) Farmer Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation).
• These draft amendment bills have been drawn up by a cabinet sub-committee under the leadership of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
• These draft amendment bills will be discussed during the winter session of the legislature in Nagpur that will be held in December.
What do the new amendment bills offer?
• The new three amendment bills have provisions for:
(i) Higher than MSP rate for produce in farming agreement with traders, ensuring timely payment of dues, three-year jail terms and Rs 5 lakh fine or both for harassment of farmers.
• Agriculture Minister Dada Bhuse stated that any farming agreements between farmers and traders would be considered void if the price of agricultural produce offering is not more than the MSP (minimum support price). Further, if the farmer is not remunerated within 7 days of the sale of his agricultural produce, a criminal suit can be registered against the trader for which punishments include three-year imprisonment and Rs 5 lakh penalty.
• Amendments to Centre’s Farmer Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) is to ensure farmers get fair remuneration price for their agriculture produce within a set timeframe, mentioned Co-operation Minister Balasaheb Patil. He said the Centre’s farm laws offer no control over traders in case of failure of payment to the farmer after the sale of his agricultural produce.
• These draft amendment bills further offer that no trader can trade for agriculture produce unless he possesses a valid licence from the competent authority. In case of a dispute, farmers and traders can seek assistance by filing an application to the competent authority and an appeal against the order of competent authority to the appellate authority, said Patil.
(ii) Allotment of power to state government to regulate and prohibit production, supply, distribution and impose stock limits on essential commodities.
• In the case of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (already amended by the Centre), there is no provision for the state government to regulate and prohibit the production, supply, distribution and impose stock limits on essential commodities under circumstances such as natural calamity, price rise or famine. Hence, the state government proposes a further amendment to the act in order to have power over-regulating and prohibiting production, supply, distribution and imposing stock limits on essential commodities during extraordinary circumstances.