The Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday unanimously passed three Farm Bills to counter the contentious farm laws enacted by the Union Government last month. Among other things, the Bills make buying wheat and paddy below minimum support price (MSP) a punishable offence.
The Assembly passed a resolution rejecting the Central legislations and the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill and demanding their immediate annulment. Farm Bills sought an ordinance to protect the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and ensure the continuance of procurement by the Centre.
Punjab’s Three Farm Bills
The three State Farm Bills provide for imprisonment of not less than three years and fines for sale-purchase of wheat or paddy under a farming agreement below the MSP, besides prevention of hoarding and black-marketing of agricultural produce, among other things.
The provision of punishment for sale-purchase below the MSP has been incorporated in The Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020.
The Farm Bills provides that no sale or purchase is done below the MSP and violation of the same shall invite imprisonment of three years besides fine. Farm Bills seeks to ensure that no sale or purchase of wheat or paddy under a farming agreement shall be allowed below the MSP. Farm Bills also seeks amendment to sections 1(2), sections 19 and 20 of the Centre’s Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. It proposes to add new sections that are section 4, 6 to 11.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020, seeks to amend sections 1(2), 14 and 15 of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 to ensure that sale or purchase of wheat or paddy in the State is not allowed below the MSP. The amendment Bill also seeks to provide for punishment for harassment of farmers or payment of less price to the farmers by inserting new sections 6 to 11.
The Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020, seeks to amend the Centre’s ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020’ by amending section 1(2) and section 3(1A) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. It seeks to ensure status quo ante as on June 4, 2020 with regard to implementation of the Central Act namely, ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020’.
A fourth Bill – The Code of Civil Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020 was also passed, which seeks to insert a provision for exemption of agriculture land not exceeding 2.5 acres from Section 60 of The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, which provides for attachment or decree of various properties – moveable and immoveable. Proviso-b to this Section states that the properties of the farmers such as cattle, implements, cowsheds, etc, would be exempt from attachment, but as on date agriculture land can be attached. Given the farmers’ apprehension about attachment-decree of their land as a consequence of enforcement of farming contracts or otherwise, the State government is seeking, through this Bill, to give full exemption to small farmers and others from attachment or decree of land up to 2.5 acres.
All MLAs unanimously voted in favour of the resolution and the Bills, except the two BJP members who were absent from the House during the second day of the special Assembly session. The resolution, which was passed, described the Centre’s farm laws and the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 as ‘anti-farmers’ and demanded that they be scrapped.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh informed the House that he had sought time from the President of India to raise Punjab’s concerns on the farm laws. He appealed to farmers’ unions to allow movement of trains for the transportation of coal, urea and grains. He pointed out that the State government has already lost ?40,000 crore in revenue due to the ongoing “rail roko” agitation. Industry and business was as much the responsibility of the State government as was agriculture, he said, adding that the farmers’ fight was against Delhi, not against Punjab.
Earlier, responding to a suggestion from Leader of the Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema, on MSP guarantee by the State government, the Chief Minister asked the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader if he had any idea about the financial implications of such a move. In any case, where would the State sell the produce even if it purchased the same, he added, terming the suggestion impractical.