Rajasthan Assembly passed three farm Bills on November 2, 2020 a fortnight after Punjab Assembly passed its own laws to address the issues in the Centre’s agriculture laws.
The state government had introduced the three bills in the Assembly on October 31. The goal was to negate the impact of the farm laws introduced by the Union government that were dubbed “anti-farmer” by many farming organisations.
The three Bills are the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, and the Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Rajasthan Amendment) Bill.
The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Bill seeks to negate the effects of its central counterpart using the Rajasthan Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961.
The new law penalises any trader, who does not accept delivery of farm produce or accepts the delivery but fails to pay the farmer, with three to seven years of imprisonment or a fine of minimum Rs. 5 lakhs or both.
Further, it allows the state government to impose cess/charges from time to time, on notified agricultural produce, brought or bought or sold, by a corporate, trader or on the electronic trading and transaction platform. This is a marked difference from the central law that prohibited imposition of a market fee on any farmer, trader, electronic trading in a farmers’ produce trade area.
Another difference is that the state law says that a dispute may be resolved through the State APMC Act as opposed to the Union law that directs the parties to a sub-divisional Magistrate.
The full text of the Rajasthan law can be seen below
Similarly, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill addresses a key concern of farmers regarding Minimum Support Price (MSP.)
“Provided … that no Farming Agreement for the sale or purchase of a crop shall be valid unless the price paid for such agricultural produce is equal to, or greater than, the prevailing Minimum Support Prices, announced by the Central Government for that crop,” says the Bill unlike the central Act that makes no mention of MSP.
Another deviation from the central law comes from the levying of fees/cess on any farming produce under the APMC Act for farmers’ welfare and market infrastructure development. Moreover, these fees are to be paid by the sponsor so that the burden does not fall on farmers.
The full text of the state law can be seen below:
Lastly, the Essential Commodities Bill aims to protect consumers from hoarding and black-marketing of agricultural produce and to secure the interests and livelihood of farmers, labourers and others engaged in agriculture and related activities.
It allows the Rajasthan government to regulate or prohibit the production, supply, distribution and impose stock limits under extraordinary circumstances including famine, price rise, natural calamity or any other situation.
The policy would also have an overriding effect notwithstanding any inconsistencies with other laws for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act.
The opposition BJP members staged a walkout before the Bills were put to vote, saying the State government did not have the powers under the constitutional scheme to bring in such legislation. Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said the Bills, which went against the federal structure, had challenged the Centre’s legislative domain.
The full text of the Bill can be seen below: