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Maharashtra Introduces 3 Amendment Bills To Challenge Centre's Farm Laws

The Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra has introduced three amendment proposals in response to the Centre's new farm laws.


Picture Credit: PTI/@CMOMaharashtra-Twitter   

In a move to counter the new farm laws enacted by the Centre, the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra introduced three amendment bills in the assembly on Tuesday, July 6, related to agriculture, co-operation, food, and civil supplies, in a move to counter the new farm laws enacted by the Centre, which have been met with stiff opposition from a section of cultivators.

Maharashtra bills against farm laws

For harassment of farmers, the laws provide for a higher than MSP rate for produce under farming agreements with traders, timely payment of dues, a three-year prison sentence and a Rs 5 lakh fine, or both. They also provide the state government the authority to regulate and restrict the production, supply, and distribution of critical commodities, as well as set stock limitations.

The central agricultural laws were passed without debate, according to Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat, and several of their clauses infringe on state government rights. He said, "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."

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

A cabinet sub-committee headed by deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar drafted the proposed bills. Pawar stated that the draught bills will be available to the public for two months, during which time all stakeholders will be able to discuss and debate their provisions. The proposals would be debated and passed during the Nagpur legislature's winter session (which begins in December), he stated. Farming agreements (between traders and farmers), according to Agriculture Minister Dada Bhuse, will be regarded as invalid if the price of Agri produces given is less than the MSP (minimum support price).

If the farmer is not paid within seven days after the sale of his produce, a criminal charge against the merchant can be filed, with penalties including three years in prison and a Rs 5 lakh fine, according to Bhuse. According to Cooperation Minister Balasaheb Patil, there is no control over traders under the central authority in the event of a default in payment to farmers after the sale of agricultural produce.

Maha govt introduces 3 bills to counter Centre's

The state government has decided to change the Centre's Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act in its applicability to Maharashtra to ensure farmers receive a decent price for their agricultural produce in a timely manner and to protect their interests, according to Patil.

According to Patil, the proposed legislation suggests that no dealer may trade in any scheduled agricultural produce unless he has a valid licence from the appropriate authority.  Parties can seek a solution to a disagreement originating from a transaction between a farmer and a trader by filing an application with the relevant authority and an appeal against the competent authority's ruling with the appellate authority, he said.

He said the penalty for harassing farmers is three years in prison and a fine of not less than Rs 5 lakh, or both. 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, or imposing stock limits under extraordinary circumstances such as famine, price rises, or natural calamities, according to food and civil supplies minister Chhagan Bhujbal. He stated that the state government intends to change the law so that it can regulate and restrict manufacturing, supply, distribution, and impose stock limitations in Maharashtra.

(with inputs from PTI)

Picture Credit: PTI/@CMOMaharashtra-Twitter   

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