The Maharashtra government introduced three new bills regarding farmers produce in the state legislative assembly on Tuesday. After the Modi sarkar had passed the three contentious Farm Laws last year, the state had announced that it would come up with its own legislation. Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi leaders called the bills "pro-farmer"; they are in public domain for deliberations.
The bills –Essential Commodities (Amendment), Farmers (Empowerment and Protection), Guarantee Price; Agriculture Related Agreements (Maharashtra Amendment) and Amendments to Central Government Farmer Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) – have been placed in the public domain for two bills. They were presented by Cooperative Minister Balasaheb Patil and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbal.
In a proposed amendment to The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the state bill says that "the traders must have license from competent authority". There is no such provision in the central Act.
The state has also made it mandatory for traders to buy produce at prices equal to the MSP (minimum support price) or above it. "Any trade under MSP won't be legal. If the trader cheats farmers then there is a provision of punishment," said agriculture minister Dada Bhuse. The punishment is imprisonment for not less than three years and a fine not less than five lakh rupees or both.
"There is no guarantee of MSP to farmers in the Central law, but it is there in the state Bills. Farmers have been demanding it during their agitation. The Maharashtra government has kept its word on MSP," said Bhuse.
Regarding the stocking of grains, pulses and other food grain, the Bill presented by the state government takes control of supply, imposing stock limits. The amendment said the state shall have control "to regulate or prohibit the production, supply, disteibution, imposing stock limits under extraordinary situation like famine, price rise, natural calamity and others." The Centre's laws do not enable the government to exercise such rights, leading to the fear of traders misusing the extraordinary situation to their benefit.
"We are not going to pass these Bills immediately. The Bills are now part of the public domain. We appeal to farmers unions, NGOs, activists and others to submit their objections and suggestions to the Bills," said Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.
Meanwhile All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) national president Dr. Ashok Dhawale said that the leaders and representatives of the AIKSCC will meet on Wednesday evening to discuss the Bills. "We have gone through the Bills. We will have a meeting with all the members of AIKSCC on Wednesday. We will discuss the Bills and come out with a reaction then," said Dhavale.