In a first, Punjab Assembly rejects Centre's farm laws
Chandigarh, October 20, 2020
In a first in the country, the legislative Assembly in Punjab led by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday unanimously passed three legislations and formally rejected the Centre's "black" agricultural laws brought by the BJP-led Union government.
The Bills provide for imprisonment of not less than three years and a fine for sale or purchase of wheat or paddy under a farming agreement below the MSP, exemption of farmers from attachment of land up to 2.5 acres and prevention of hoarding and black-marketing of agricultural produce, among other things.
The three Bills, rejecting outright the Centre's "anti-farmer" laws, and the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill that led to widespread protests by farmers in the agrarian states of Punjab and Haryana, were passed with a voice vote amid the presence of the Shriomani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members.
However, both the BJP members remained absent from the House during the special session of the Vidhan Sabha.
The Assembly also unanimously passed a resolution rejecting the Central legislations and the proposed Electricity Amendment Bill, seeking their immediate annulment along with a new ordinance to protect the minimum support price (MSP) and ensure continuance of procurement by the government of India.
The Chief Minister informed the House that he had sought time from the President of India to raise Punjab's concerns on the farm laws and seek his intervention to protect the farmers.
He later led all the MLAs to the Punjab Raj Bhavan to submit the resolution passed by the House to Governor V. P. Singh Badnore.
Thanking all members for supporting the resolution, the Chief Minister said this would send a positive message to the farmers.
He assured all support to the farmers and vowed not to let Punjab's peaceful atmosphere be vitiated at any cost.
Amarinder Singh once again reiterated his appeal to the protesting farmers' unions to allow movement of trains for the transportation of coal, urea and foodgrains, pointing out that the state had already lost Rs 40,000 crore in revenue due to the "rail roko".
Industry and business was as much the responsibility of the state government as was agriculture, he said, adding that the farmers' fight was against Delhi, not against Punjab.
He expressed hope that the farmers' organisations will heed his appeal.
Earlier, responding to a suggestion from Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema on the MSP guarantee by state, the Chief Minister asked the AAP leader if he had any idea about the financial implications of such a move.
In any case, where would the state sell the produce even if it purchased the same, he added, terming the suggestion as impractical.
Replying to questions raised by SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia on the future of the State Amendment Bills, Amarinder Singh said he had already made it clear that the Bills would have to go to the Governor who may or may not approve them.
Thereafter, they would also need to go to the President of India, who may also approve or reject them.
However, he asserted that as in the case of the Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act, the state government will continue to fight the Central laws legally, for which a team of lawyers and experts was onboard.
The Farmers' (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020; The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020, were passed to protect the state's farmers and agriculture by restoring various safeguards aimed at preventing damage apprehended by the farming community as a result of the Central legislations.
Besides ensuring MSP, with punishment in case of sale and purchase in violation of the same, the legislations provide for prevention of hoarding and black-marketing of foodgrains, the Chief Minister said.
The Code of Civil Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill of 2020 provides relief to farmers against attachment of land up to 2.5 acres, in line with the Congress government's election promise.
The House was adjourned after passage of the Bills till Wednesday, when it will meet for other legislative business.