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Maharashtra to Amend Farm Laws, Farmers’ Unions Demand Discussion Beforehand

The MVA government has formed a committee of ministers headed by Congress leader and state Revenue Minister of Balasaheb Thorat to discuss and come up with amendments to the laws, expected to be tabled during the monsoon session of the Assembly.
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The monsoon session of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly will be on for two days from July 5. According to sources within the government, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government is likely to present the controversial farm laws with amendments during the session. With the protests against the farm laws continuing for over seven months there is much curiosity over what the state government is going to introduce in the house.

While all major leaders of the MVA government have publicly opposed the laws, there are differences among the alliance partners in their opposition. These differences had also come to the fore during the voting on the laws in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in 2020. While Shiv Sena had supported the laws in LS and opposed it in the upper House, the Nationalist Congress Party had opposed it in LS but remained conspicuously absent during the voting in the RS. Meanwhile, Congress had opposed the laws in both the houses.

In this backdrop, the government formed a committee of ministers headed by Congress leader and state Revenue Minister of Balasaheb Thorat to discuss and come up with amendments to the laws.

"We have already made it clear that MVA won't implement the Centre's laws as it is. We are in process of discussion," Thorat had said, while refusing to share details on issues, especially about private market committee and stocking of grains. 

Meanwhile on Tuesday, June 29, farmer leaders Raju Shetti, social activist Medha Patkar, Pratibha Shinde and others met CM Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and others, demanding that the state government should consult with farmers’ unions and activists who are opposing the central farm laws.

"We have been assured by the CM and others that they won't implement the central farm laws as it is. But that's not enough. While making Maharashtra-centric bills, they should discuss with farmers’ unions. We are ready to give our suggestions," former MP Raju Shetti told mediapersons after meeting with CM Thackeray.

Also read: Maharashtra’s Small Farmers Land in Major Financial Crisis Due to Lockdown

The government’s take on the Agriculture Produce Market Committees which have served as the backbone of the state’s agrarian economy is one of the aspects which has gained significant traction. The political influence wielded by the APMCs also add to their importance. NCP and Congress have strong presence in APMCs across state.

The All India Kisan Sabha, which played an instrumental role in mobilising the farmers’ agitation, has asked the Maharashtra government to make the bills public well in advance. "We are ready to sit across and give suggestions. But before that the state government should make its proposed bills public. So that, there would be side discussions on multiple platforms. AIKS won't compromise the farmers' interests at any cost," said Dr Ajit Navale, general secretary of AIKS, Maharashtra. 

"APMCs need to be protected for better prices for farmers. But that doesn't mean that it should continue like today. APMCs need to be modernised and more transparency needs to be incorporated. Especially in issues of stock, deciding prices and protecting farmers from cartels of traders," said senior agriculture journalist Maruti Kandale.

“Maharashtra already has a policy to give godowns to private players on lease. But there are multiple conditions on stocking of food grains. The private person has to update information with APMCs regularly. It will be important for MVA to show that it is different from the Modi government. In this case, there should be clear position by MVA in the upcoming bills,” he added.

"This is chance for opposition parties to show that they have different and pro-people policies than the Centre. People will believe them only when they show it in action. We have told MVA leaders that with your farm bills, you can present this model of governance. Its upto them whether they want to grab the opportunity or shall have business as usual," said Medha Patkar after the meeting with the ministers.

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