As Farmer Protests Intensify, Punjab Considers Making Entire State a ‘Mandi Yard’ to Bypass New Laws
Farmers block a railway track as they participate in 'Rail Roko Andolan' during a protest against the farm bills near Amritsar on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020.
With the stir against the Centre’s agriculture reforms intensifying, Punjab is “seriously contemplating” amending the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act and declaring the entire state as a Principal Mandi Yard. The development comes as the government is also facing heat from the Opposition after the resignation of Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) lone minister in the Narendra Modi government over the proposed legislation.
A report in The Indian Express, citing sources, said that the Congress government, which is under “tremendous political pressure”, feels that doing so will bypass provisions in The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, which was cleared by the Parliament.
The Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, have been passed by both Houses and await presidential assent.
Sources aware of the development told the publication that the government has not yet taken a final decision with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh seeking a legal opinion on the matter. On Thursday, he was briefed by Advocate General Atul Nanda. Meanwhile, State Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said the government is contemplating such a move but added that it may be struck down by the Supreme Court.
“The Chief Minister has already said that we will go to the Supreme Court against the central government’s legislation. Let us see,” he was quoted as saying.
Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office also said that agriculture experts had advised last week that the state follow the example of Rajasthan, which had notified warehouses that fall under the Food Corporation of India (FCI), Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) and Rajasthan State Warehousing Corporation (RSWC) as procurement centres under the state’s APMC Act, the IE report added.
Intensifying their protests against the contentious agricultural bills passed by Parliament earlier this week, several farmers' organisations, including from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, called for a national shutdown on Friday. Farmers in Punjab have already started a three-day rail blockade against the bills, squatting on tracks at many places. Ever since the bills were tabled, farmers expressed apprehensions that the legislations will pave way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system and they will be at the mercy of ‘big corporates’.
The Congress-led government in Punjab has described the legislation as a “blatant attack” on the federal structure. The Centre, however, assured the farmers that these “very historic” bills would benefit them.