Union Agriculture Minister exposed Punjab government in a speech in Rajya Sabha on farm bills. He presented the Punjab government’s Contract Farming Act, which has provision for five years of jail if the farmer exits from the contract. “Punjab Contract Farming Act provides for jail and fine up to Rs five lakh for the farmer. In the Act made by the Government of India, the farmer can come out of contract farming at any time,” said Tomar in Rajya Sabha.
“For two months I kept asking the farmers’ union what is ‘black’ in these laws? Tell me if it should be fixed. Opposition leaders called criticising the agrarian reform. But no one tried to explain how are they harming the farmers,” he added.
“So, I want to ask the farmers, especially the farmers of Punjab because they have a slightly different situation there — the commission of arhatiyas is different, everything else is different. While we have exempted (transactions) from tax, the state government is levying tax. So, the agitation should be held against the person who is collecting taxes or against the one who is making it tax-free (transactions)? Lekin desh mein ulti Ganga bah rahi hai. (But what is happening is the opposite),” Tomar further said in Rajya Sabha, indirectly targeting the Punjab government.
The Punjab government, which has already enacted such an act which is tilted in the favour of corporates and puts the farmers at a disadvantage, passed a resolution in the Punjab legislative assembly to nullify the laws passed by the centre.
Punjab, where the opposition to three farm bills is most intense, had two contract farming laws in the past. The first law was passed by Amarinder Singh in 2003, just a year after he became the Chief Minister for the first time.
Contract farming law enacted by Punjab government provides for 1 month jail and 5 lakh fine if the farmer reneges on his commitment. There is no punitive provision against the farmer in the laws framed by center.
How come no farmer protest ever against such draconian provisions? pic.twitter.com/7j8xG4I176
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) February 6, 2021
In 2012, the Akali Dal, which exited from NDA on the issue of farm laws, scrapped the contract farming law brought by the Amarinder Singh government and brought a new contract farming bill in 2013 which has draconian provisions such as jail for 5 years if the farmer seeks to end the contract.
Contract farming is being practised in India for decades and various governments have tried to formalise it through legislation, and the contract farming bill passed by the union government, named ‘Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020,’ is the most progressive among these.
Congress and Akali Dal – both of which tried to prove themselves as the well-wisher of the farmers by opposing the farm bills tooth and nail, have passed draconian laws that favour the corporates while the union government is tilted in the favour of farmers.
The Modi government introduced three farm bills to cut the bureaucrats and middlemen from the agricultural sector and link farmers directly to the market. With the farm laws, the Modi government provides an opportunity for people like Kaushlendra across the country who could liberate the farmers and themselves from poverty.
The three farm bills would free-up the farmers to sell the products directly in the market and minimise the government’s power to regulate the stocks of essential commodities which include various agricultural products, and formalise contract farming. These bills would cut the ‘middlemen’ and improve farmers’ income, but the opposition parties like Congress, which earlier promised to introduce the same reforms, are now opposing these bills and misinforming them for their petty politics.
Modi government is also investing heavily in agricultural infrastructure to ensure the value of the output is maximised and the agricultural products do not go waste in the times of overproduction. “We have started to provide MSP, 50 per cent more than the production cost. Also, Rs 1 lakh crore agriculture infrastructure fund has been given under the Atmanirbhar package. We have tried to ensure the requisite investment reaches the agriculture sector,” said Tomar in Rajya Sabha.
The successive steps of the Modi government to double the farmers’ income by 2022 will help to solve the problems of rural distress and revive rural consumption. Yet, the opposition parties can’t stop spreading misinformation about the farm laws. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the same in the Parliament, exposing the anti-farmer Punjab government.