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How the new Punjab bills will negate Central laws

October 21, 2020 05:49 AM


How the new Punjab bills will negate Central laws

Farmers staging a protest outside the residence of BJP leader Shwait Malik in Amritsar on Tuesday. SAMEER SEHGAL/HT
Chetan Chauhan and Navneet Sharma

New Delhi/Chandigarh : Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday introduced three bills in the assembly to negate certain provisions of the Central farm bills approved in Parliament. The Punjab version of bills is aimed to protect farmers’ interests and may be adopted by other non-NDA ruled states. An explainer on new provisions inserted in the Central laws by Punjab government.

Has Punjab government nullified Central laws?

No. The Punjab government has added additional provisions in the three farm laws providing safeguards to farmers and to address their concerns while adopting the basic structure of the Central laws, which allows private sector in production and trading for agriculture produce. The Punjab laws allow private players to buy produce or enter contract farming as the Central laws had envisaged but have included provisions that the protesting farmer bodies in the state had been demanding.

Has Punjab ensured MSP protection?

Yes. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill 2020 has section 4, which guarantees minimum support price (MSP) notified by the Centre for wheat and paddy to all farmers, unlike the Central law which allowed the market to decide the best price for the produce. Section 5 of the bill overrides any price mechanism suggested in the Central bill.

The bill also provides for penal provision says that paying less than MSP by private players would result in jail term of no less than three years and fine. The Punjab version of bill makes it illegal to sign a contract with farmers for selling produce below MSP.

What is there for protection for agriculture markets?

The bill also gives Punjab government the right to levy a fee on private players for buying produce from farmers in any form anywhere in the state, thereby extending the mandi system to entire state. The Central law exempted private players from paying any fees outside the mandis. The Contract Farming Bill restores primacy of APMC in sale and purchase of farm produce, which was diluted in Central laws.

What are other protectionist measures?

The bill also allows farmers to approach civil court against the private players in addition to sub-divisional magistrate court provided in the Central law. Punjab has also introduced an amendment in Code of Civil Procedure (CrPC) 1908 debarring courts from attaching land holding below 2.5 acres in any recovery proceedings. The Punjab CM has also introduced a bill to amend the Centre’s ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020’ nullifies its impact by maintaining status quo ante as on 4 June 2020, when this Central law was promulgated as ordinance. The Central law allowed the Centre to regulate supply of foods only under extraordinary circumstances. The bill restores state’s power to regulate essential commodities and enforce hoarding limit for farm produce.

Can Punjab directly implement these laws?

As agriculture, agriculture markets and lands are state subjects, the state can frame laws on them. But entry 33 of the Concurrent subjects allows Centre to frame laws on control production, supply and distribution of products. Using this provision, the Centre has introduced the farm reform bills.

Can the Centre negate Punjab laws?

Yes, it can. As Punjab laws are in conflict with the Centre’s, the latter using its powers under Article 254 (2) can ask Punjab to seek approval of President before notifying these. The President, normally, approves the bill after getting the Centre on board and can refuse to approve the bill. In case Punjab does not send the bills for President’s approval saying agriculture is a state subject, the Centre can bring in amendments in the Punjab farm laws to ensure uniformity of the Central laws across the country.

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