Punjab farm legal guidelines: As a substitute of defending farmers, they may restrict their competitiveness, Centre’s evaluation

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 27

Instead of protecting farmers, Punjab farm bills “limit their competitiveness, disincentivise investment by the private sector in the state and hinder overall development of the agriculture sector”, says an assessment by the Centre of counter-laws passed by the State Assembly last week.

Pointing to “multiple contradictions” in Punjab’s laws, including on the MSP,  it says the three Central Acts passed by the Parliament aim at providing “freedom and more choices to the farmers” through a “national framework for agreements and options of trade and commerce outside state-regulated markets in addition to existing choice of sale through state-regulated markets and under MSP”.

However, “provisions in Punjab Bills are in contradiction to the Central Acts and defeat the very objective. They claim to have been passed to protect farmers but in reality do the opposite due to ambiguity and conflicting clauses”.

Further, the bills suggest implementation of the Central Acts will depend on the notification in the Official Gazette by the state government even when the Central Acts are already in force. “Such a change in date of implementation of Central Acts with a retrospective effect is completely unlawful,” it adds.

There is a clause in the Punjab law suggesting that no sale or purchase of wheat and paddy will be valid unless the price paid is equal to or greater than the MSP announced by the Central government whereas the Central Acts do not deal with MSP at all, it says.

“Central Act provides for mutual agreement on the price between the buyer and the seller based on market forces and independent of MSP.

“The intent behind the Central Acts is to ensure that farmers have a greater choice in the agreements they enter into and can mutually finalise prices with buyers based on quality, variety, etc., in addition to continued access to MSP procurement by the government.

“Besides there is low probability that farmer agreements will be entered into for standard varieties of wheat and paddy, and hence there is no relevance of this addition by the state government,” it adds. 

Besides, clauses like “punitive action against buyer who pressurises a farmer to sell below MSP will create confusion among buyers and farmers regarding the crop below FAQ and not fit for procurement on MSP”.

“Such provisions will lead to reduced competitiveness among Punjab farmers in comparison to other states.”

Adding “any other situation” to the list of exceptional circumstances in the Essential Commodities Act “will lead to unlimited regulatory power in the hands of the state government”.

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