With the Punjab government targeting the Centre over an ordinance which allows barrier-free trade in the farm sector, Union Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Saturday asserted that the ordinance would not violate the spirit of federal structure in any way. The Union minister also slammed people who create "illusions" over the minimum support price (MSP) for foodgrain and said the assured price to farmers would continue.
The Union minister's statement came a day after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh dubbed the ordinance as "violative" of the federal structure.
The chief minister had also warned that it could pave the way for disbanding the MSP regime as well as the foodgrain procurement regime, triggering unrest among the state's farmers.
The Centre on Friday notified two key ordinances to kick in agriculture reforms and help farmers trade freely and fetch better prices.
The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020 allows barrier-free trade in agriculture produce outside the notified APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees) mandis.
It proposes to bar state governments from imposing taxes on sale and purchase of farm produce undertaken outside the mandis and give farmers the freedom to sell their produce at remunerative prices.
Whereas the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance 2020 empowers farmers to engage with processors, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers and exporters through advanced agreements on pre-agreed prices.
Union minister Tomar on Saturday said the ordinance would not affect the spirit of the federal structure. "I want to clarify that this ordinance does not violate the spirit of the federal structure," he said during a video conference here.
He further clarified that this law also did not encroach upon the rights of any state government.
"There is no need for anyone to fall prey to the illusions over MSP and I also understand that nobody should create illusions in this matter," Tomar said.
"Purchase of crops at MSP will continue," he asserted.
He said the state's APMC Act will stay and the states continue to collect taxes within their mandis.
The Union minister said the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020 gives freedom to farmers to sell their crop to anyone at their prices at any place.
"Till now, farmers had no freedom to fix crop prices and choose buyers," he noted.
He said any person, who has a PAN card, can buy crops from farmers and he will not require a license.
Tomar said the Centre had neither intention nor tried to force any law on any state. He was reacting to Amarinder Singh's remarks that the law was forced on Punjab.
The Union Agriculture minister asked why should not the Centre remove the restrictions from the farmers if it can do so. Shouldn''t the inspector raj end and farmers have right to sell their produce at their own price? he asked.