With their eyes wide open and very well aware of the rules and the list of the items in the concurrent list, the Congress – ruled states are bent on creating a legislative charade in order to hoodwink farmers protesting against the Central farm laws and projecting the Congress Government as the ‘real’ saviours of the poor farmers.
On Tuesday, as previously threatened, the Punjab Assembly passed a couple of legislations seeking to amend and negate some of the excellent provisions in the recent Central farm – related laws. The government – sponsored resolutions were adopted unanimously, given the stiff competition among parties to misguide the agitating farmers. A basic understanding of the constitutional scheme of things was violated when the specially convened session adopted a resolution rejecting the Central laws.
In my opinion the Governor should not have given his permission to hold the state legislative session, in the 1st instance and should have asked for the agenda of the assembly session and should have satisfied itself on the agenda, whether it was a development agenda or a political back stabbing.
Given that laws passed by the Centre on subjects figuring in the Concurrent list receive automatic primacy over any laws in the list passed by a State, the Punjab legislation is ‘ab initio ultra vires’ and this new bill passed is a clear sign of politics, which will be played by Pappu and his usual Pappuism and his famous words to make ‘sona (Gold) from aaloo (potato)’ jab, which was a butt of jokes for a long time. The bill will be sent to the Governor and he may reject it and it may be send back to the state government and entire congress will hit the roof with gheraos and dharnas on the streets of Chandigarh and repeat the tractor burning episodes, which was an utter failure.
If sent to the President for assent, it will certainly meet rejection. A political charade which abuses the constitutional process ought to have been avoided at all costs.
But the Congress Party, in its desperation to mount an effective opposition against the Modi government for the sake of opposition and to create chaos, has chosen to go through a mock legislation, misusing the forum of the state assembly after introducing and passing a wholly redundant provision in the so-called legislation by the Punjab Assembly.
It prescribes stringent punishment to anyone forcing a farmer to sell wheat and paddy, the only two crops it seems to be concerned about to the exclusion of all others, below the Minimum Support Price (MSP). But why only 2 crops?
Centre government has provision to buy 20 crops. But there is no element of force edgeways mentioned in the Central laws. Nor, for that matter, any reference to below – MSP procurement. The Centre has declared the MSP for over 20 crops, including cotton and maize.
The real reason of this well planned drama is that clearly, the Punjab government is concerned about wheat and paddy alone, because it fears losing nearly Rs 5,000 crore annually, as 8.5 per cent ‘mandi’ fee on the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI’s) procurement of wheat and paddy. But nowhere in the Central laws is there a provision regarding the use of force to buy paddy or wheat, or, for that matter, any other crop with or without a formal MSP.
False propaganda by the Opposition is meant to create a fear psychosis about the Central laws. The Punjab amendments also empowered the state government to impose its own stock limits, along with those that might be set by the Central government under the amended Essential Commodities Act. The three Bills passed by the state assembly may be replicated by the Congress-ruled states of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan as well, with minor changes. These acts may be replicated by other opposition rules states as the role of ‘aratiya’, will be totally eliminated and state governments will lose mandi tax and local clout.
In Chhattisgarh, Governor Excellency Anusuiya Uikey has asked the state government the reason for convening a special assembly session. Eventually, the state government might have its way and pass copy-cat bills as passed by Punjab against the Central legislation. Likewise, the Rajasthan government too might follow suit. But the question is, to what effect?
Instead the state government must think of crop rotation strategies. A single kilo of rice demands 3,000 to 7,000 litres of water, depending on the variety. Close to 30 lakh hectares of paddy are cultivated every year and much of it is exported – along with the water embedded in the agricultural produce. As a result of this ‘virtual water export’, Punjab is in very real danger of depleting its groundwater.
Iran has already threatened India that since we are not buying their crude, they will buy basmati rice from our neighbour and they will not smell Indian rice in their ‘Pilaf’, the threat was open and clear and rightly so.
Long time back, I had written in an article that Vietnam produces little inferior quality rice in abundance and moving rice to the southern states is so expensive, so we buy the rice from Vietnam. Time for new strategies to be a winner, rather than cheap politics and wastage of government time in non-creative work.
Private sector has invested heavily in making storage space available for buying vegetables directly from farmers by Grofers, More, BigBasket Reliance Retail, Behtar and many more retailers. Large retail chains like Reliance Fresh, Food Bazaar, More, Easyday, Spencer’s, and Safal also have networking with farmers for direct sourcing. Additionally, they buy from local markets to maintain daily stock requirement. The vegetables are plucked between 7.00 pm to 10.00 pm and custom packed for different stores and locations and delivered by 4.00 am to be sold in stores. Money is paid instantly to the farmers in most cases. Punjab wants to scare big players like ITC eChoupal and other departmental stores and would like to earn the mandi tax and will deter the real growth of the farmers income.
A political charade, mocking the constitutional division of legislative powers is orchestrated with the sole intention of pulling the wool over farmers’ eyes. Farmers know better than to be taken in by such deceptions. A clear indication was there were no protests in MP!