Sonia Gandhi asks Cong.-ruled States to bring in their own farm laws

This will alleviate farmers from grave injustice done by Modi govt, says statement.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has directed Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Pudducherry Chief Ministers to explore the possibility of passing laws to override the three agricultural laws passed recently by Parliament.

A statement issued by party general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal said that these States have been told to pass laws under Article 254 (2) of the Constitution that allows State legislatures to pass law to negate the “Anti-Agriculture” Central laws encroaching upon the States’ jurisdiction under the Constitution.

Also read: New farm laws will enslave farmers: Rahul Gandhi

Article 254 (2) of the Constitution essentially enables a State government to pass a law, on any subject in the Concurrent List, that may contradict a Central law, provided it gets the President’s assent. In late 2014, the BJP government in Rajasthan took this very route to make changes to the central labour laws — the Factories Act, the Industrial Disputes act, and the Contract Labour Act — which subsequently got the President’s assent.

“This would enable the States to bypass the unacceptable anti-farmers provisions in the three draconian Agricultural laws including the abolition of MSP and disruption of APMCs in Congress ruled states. This would also alleviate the farmers from the grave injustice done by the Modi Government and BJP,” the statement said.

The Punjab government, led by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, had started work on these lines. It had been contemplating to amend the Agriculture Produce Market Committee Act and declare the entire State as a principal mandi yard. This would circumvent the provisions in The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, which was passed in Parliament. The declaration of mandi yards ensures that any procurement outside their ambit is considered illegal, farmers do not get a price less than the MSP, and the State gets its mandi fee.

Also read: Farm laws merely a ruse to subvert APMC, says plea in Supreme Court

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel too had recently said his government would take legal steps to ensure that private players did not get entry into the agriculture sector. At least 40 per cent of paddy production in Chattisgarh is procured by the Food Corporation of India for the Central pool. And unlike Punjab and Haryana, where farmers have large land holdings, 86% of Chhattisgarh’s land holdings are of less than 5 acres.

Also read: Protests against farm laws hit normal life in Punjab

Option of moving SC

The Congress is still weighing its options on moving the Supreme Court against The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance & Farm Services Bill, 2020, and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

In an interview with The Hindu, Rajya Sabha member and senior party leader Abhishek Singhvi had said, “Certainly all options are open. I believe it strikes at the heart of federalism, which has been held repeatedly to be part of the basic structure from Keshavanada Bharati to Bommai judgements. Therefore, you have not heard the end of the story yet.”


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