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Will Punjab’s own farm bills be able to save farmers from debt and suicide?

Last Updated on October 22, 2020 at 5:31 pm

When the central government passed three agriculture bills, the state of Punjab witnessed massive protests. After almost a month when the laws got passed, a special session of the Punjab Assembly was organised to discuss the bills.

The special session rejected the bills of the Central government unanimously. Moreover, they passed three farm amendment bills which removes Punjab from the influence of the central laws. 

The new bills passed by the Punjab Assembly will need permission of the Governor of the state and the President since the bills want to amend the central bills. If they don’t get the consent of the Governor and the President, they will serve just as a message against the Centre’s farm bills. 

The bills of the Punjab Assembly highlight that most of the farmers in the state own 2 acres or less and about 86% of the farmers in the state are small. These farmers don’t have the skills to function in a private market and are vulnerable to the powerful private players. 

All the bills point out the importance of getting farmers a level playing field in the sense of a fair price guarantee. The bills also underscore that land, agriculture and related markets are the legislative domain of the state. 

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm services (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020 clearly states that the sale of wheat or paddy will only be considered valid only if the buyer pays a price more than or equal to the Minimum Support Price (MSP) set by the central government. 

The bill states that if any company or person or corporate house compels the farmer to sell theeir products at a price lower than the MSP then it will be punished with a fine and imprisonment of not less than three years. 

The amendment received mixed response from the agricultural experts. Former director general of Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), Dr Suchita Singh Gill said that this will discourage private players from buying foodgrains at prices lower than MSP. However, she wasn’t very happy with the government’s decision to only include two crops and leave crops like cotton, maize, pulses among others.