The Congress party has welcomed the Punjab Assembly's decision to adopt a resolution against the Modi government's three farm laws. The Assembly on Tuesday also passed four bills that will counter the farm laws enacted by Parliament last month.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the Punjab government has given yet another opportunity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP to listen to the voice of farmers and rectify the "historic blunder" of bringing in the new farm laws.
"In one sense, the prime minister and the BJP should thank the Punjab government because they have given the BJP central leadership another opportunity to rectify the historic blunder, which they did in September," he said on Tuesday.
Singhvi alleged the BJP government at the Centre did not listen to the voice of farmers and got the bills passed in Parliament "unconstitutionally".
The opposition parties have been arguing that the Modi government's three bills -- 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 are aimed at handing over the farming sector to corporates and that farmers will not get benefit of the MSP.
But the government maintains that the bills give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside the notified APMC market yards (mandis). This is aimed at facilitating remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels. Farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their produce under the act. Besides, farmers will get the right to enter into a contract with agribusiness firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for the sale of future farming produce at a pre-agreed price. It seeks to transfer the risk of market unpredictability from farmers to sponsors.
Non-BJP states to follow suit
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal said other non-BJP ruled states are likely to follow suit as chief ministers and finance ministers of states like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Telangana have been in touch with him for getting a copy of the Punjab bills to replicate them in their respective state assemblies. Badal claimed that anger is brewing in Punjab against the BJP-led central government and farmers have taken to the streets ever since the Centre enacted the three farm bills.
Asked if the four bills passed by Punjab would get the Governor's assent as they are likely to be referred to the President since they go against the central laws, the Congress leader said under the Constitution it would require the Presidential assent.
"But not to allow presidential assent would be to compound the felony as far as the central BJP leadership is concerned. It will expose them more. This is an opportunity to rectify as they did not do it earlier by referring the bills in Parliament to a Select Committee due to their ego. If you do not take this opportunity, you (BJP) will be forever blamed for being completely insensitive to each and every simple and legitimate demand of those who feed us," Singhvi said.
Terming it as a "historic" day, he said the Congress takes pride that a state ruled by it is the first to take the initiative. He said it is in the hands of the BJP and the central government on whether they will continue "to do politics of ego or listen to the voice of farmers".
The noted lawyer, who had earlier sent the Congress-ruled states a 'model bill' to negate the central farm laws, indicated that the matter may be taken to court eventually.
He also targeted the Shiromani Akali Dal, saying "opportunistic parties in Punjab and out of Punjab were sitting in coalitions with the NDA" till the end and "then shedding crocodile tears by pretending to leave it and carry a campaign".
"What Punjab has achieved today, most importantly, is a minimal, mandatory MSP, not fudging with words in semantics. What it has achieved is punishable, violations of MSPs if you try to get around it, by subterfuge, or it has achieved is additional remedies to civil court," he said, adding that it is in addition to the remedies with SDMs and DMs.
Singhvi alleged that the central laws "violated exclusive, legislative competence in the states". He said the subjects are included in List 2 of the Constitution, which is exclusive competence with the states.
"The central government misused and abused entry 33 of list 3, which deals with interstate trade and commerce, to justify these laws and that, of course, will be a separate story when the central laws are separately challenged in court," he said.
Badal noted that the "fight has just begun" on the farm bills with Punjab passing the four bills to negate the central laws. He said 115 MLAs out of 117 approved the four bills and they went to Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore to seek his support in getting his assent to the bills.
The governor has assured them of "his highest consideration", Badal said.
The Punjab minister wondered why the central government was adamant about not adding to the central laws the provision that MSP will continue to be part of the procurement process. He was of the view that since the Food Corporation of India was "in a debt of Rs 6 lakh crore", the government of India was trying to come out of the PDS procurement system.