NEW DELHI: NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand has argued that the time has come to move agriculture into either concurrent or Union List of the Constitution from the current State List. Chand noted that since agriculture is no more a subject specific to just one state, but from moving from one to another more freely, should be the ground for the Centre to legislate on agricultural reforms.
Speaking to the New Indian Express, Chand said that on the lines of post-offices handling letters going from one state to another being under the control of the Centre, farmers’ produces are now traded interstate and even exported to other countries. Incidentally, PM was learnt to have given NITI Aayog one year time to persuade the state governments to embrace key agricultural reforms, which got over a couple of months ago. Chand told Express that the key reason behind the agrarian distress is the failure of the state governments to undertake reforms in the agricultural sector.
“Trade of agricultural produces is no more confined within a state. Rice produced in Punjab is being consumed in other states. As long as trade of an agricultural commodity was confined within a state, it being a state subject was justified. When the agricultural produces are moving out from one region to another, then the interests of other states are also involved,” argued Chand.
The NITI Aayog member also stated that 100 per cent foreign direct investment in food processing could involve procurement of food grains in one state and processing in another, which also makes agriculture being a state subject redundant. “Even under e-NAM (National Agriculture Market), the Centre is giving the financial assistance of `75 lakh for each mandi in a state. Thus, the Centre is making financial allocation without the necessary legislative competence to take up reforms,” Chand added.
The NITI Aayog member advocated Central intervention through legislations in areas of reforms in Agriculture Produce Marketing Co-operative (APMC), Essential Commodities, Private sector participation and land leasing.
Incidentally, NITI Aayog had engaged the state governments in consultations for adopting the model legislative proposal drafted by the think-tank panel on key agricultural reforms. However, the states seemed lukewarm to adopt measures pushed by the Centre. Barring MP and UP, no other state government has yet adopted the amendments in the land leasing law, which could help attract financial investment with clarity on tenancy of the land. Similarly, the APMC is seen a roadblock in the country emerging a single agricultural market.
The PM’s target of doubling of farmers’ income by 2022, incidentally, is incumbent upon the states adopting agricultural reforms.