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Rajasthan: Will Governor Kalraj Mishra clear the farm bills?

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Even though the Ashok Gehlot-led Rajasthan government managed to pass the farm bills to counter the recently enacted Central farm laws, Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra will scrutinise the bills.

The bills passed by the Rajasthan Assembly in all likelihood will be reviewed by the governor, who may withhold it and refer it to the President challenging the bills on its legal aspects.

Rajasthan is the second state after Punjab to introduce its own farm bills and the BJP government might use the governors to use their powers on withholding the bills and refer it to the President. Both the states passed the bills with an aim to stop the Centre’s new agriculture laws.

Political observers feel that the Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra and Punjab Governor VP Singh are likely to enter into confrontation with the respective state governments over the bills. The governors might take up the issue after the Bihar Assembly elections.

The farm bills

The bills presented by the ruling Congress had several amendments to counter the farm laws. These amendments were passed as the Congress claimed that the Centre’s farm laws were against the interests of farmers and supported the corporate.

The Farmer’s Produce Trade & Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2020, provides for imprisonment and fine up to Rs 5 lakh, if the trader does not accept the delivery of farm produce or does not make payment within three days. It allows disputing parties to seek resolution through civil courts under the state’s APMC Act.

The Farmer’s (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Rajasthan Amendment Bills) makes minimum sales price (MSP) mandatory for contract farming. A violation would result in imprisonment for three to seven years and/or Rs 5 lakh fine.

The Essential Commodities (Special provisions and Rajasthan amendments) Bill, 2020, empowers the state to fix stock limits to check hoarding and black marketing during famine, price rise, natural calamity or any other extra-ordinary situation.

The Code of Civil Procedure (Rajasthan amendments) bills bars attachment or sale of debtor farmer’s land up to 5 acres.

The bills have sought to restore agricultural safeguards in Rajasthan through the regulatory framework of the Rajasthan Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961, in order to secure the livelihood of farmers.

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The bill seeking to amend the Essential Commodities Act has proposed to protect the consumers from hoarding and black-marketing of agricultural produce and secure the interests of farmers.

Unlike the Central Act which had removed the ceiling on the stock of farm commodities, it will give powers to the state government to regulate the production, supply and distribution and impose stock limits under extraordinary circumstances.

BJP opposes bills

The leader of Opposition, Gulab Chand Kataria said: “The Congress has brought the bills just to make their leaders happy in Delhi. If someone has worked to bring a change in the farmer’s life, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

“The state is not right in its move to counter the Centre’s laws. The Congress government is on a wrong path and is working against the interest of the farmers,” he added.

The deputy leader of the Opposition Rajendra Singh Rathore reiterated that the state has no right to counter a law passed by the Parliament. He also questioned some of the aspects of the bills which would be a deterrent to the interests of the farmers.

Congress supports bills

Parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal said the Union farm laws were brought to benefit the corporate and not farmers.

Revenue minister Harish Choudhry said the Central laws are a “cut-paste” of the US and UK laws which were brought to benefit corporates like Walmart.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted after the passage of the bills. “It was a matter of great satisfaction and for the Congress government, the welfare of the farmers is paramount. It will help in empowering the farmers and provide them support price and protection,” the CM said.

Gehlot said that the Centre before introducing the bill should have consulted the various stake-holders and agriculture experts because the Union laws will have a far-reaching impact on states.

He asserted that due legislative processes were not followed in Parliament before passing the bills. The bills should have been referred to the select committee of the Parliament. This would have provided deeper appraisals and scrutiny of the varied aspect of the issue. He said had the Union government cared, the farmers would not have taken the path to oppose the bills.

 

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