JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government has decided to counter the new farm laws after Congress president Sonia Gandhi had asked states ruled by her party to pass legislation to override the Centre’s farm laws.
The direction by the Congress high command came as protests continued in several states against the laws. PCC chief and Education Minister of Rajasthan, Govind Singh Dotasara remarked, “In the cabinet meeting, we have discussed ways of how to bypass the central farm laws. We have asked officials and legal experts to explore whether we should bring our own state law or take some other legal steps. Our government plans to take a decision in accordance with the directives of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.”
On Wednesday, the Gehlot government after a meeting of the state Cabinet decided to explore legal ways to oppose the three agriculture-related bills passed to regulate out-of-mandi transactions and provide a framework for contract farming, and the amended Essential Commodities Act. The Rajasthan government is looking for alternatives to bypass the Centre's farm legislation by bringing in its own bills in the state Assembly in the near future.
Besides guarding its turf to limit revenue loss due to off-mandi transactions, the Gehlot government is planning to negate the “unacceptable” anti-farmer’ provisions in the agricultural laws. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has already described the new laws as a “death sentence” for farmers.
The Congress president had asked the Congress-ruled state governments to explore the possibilities to pass laws in their states under Article 254(2) of the Constitution which allows the state legislatures to pass a law to override a Central law. The state laws can be passed on a subject that is concurrent to both the state and the Centre. In such a case, if a state passes a law repugnant to a central law that receives the President’s assent, it can come into force.
Rajasthan had passed an order last month designating all warehouses of Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state warehousing corporation as mandis, thereby retaining its powers to charge mandi fees. The order was seen by many as a move to neutralise the impact of the Centre’s ordinance designating all out-of-mandi areas, including godowns, as trade zones where taxes could not be levied.
The central legislation defines a ‘trade area’ as any area outside of mandis notified under the state Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, including private market yards, direct marketing collection centres, private farmer-consumer market yards managed by persons holding any licence, as well as cold storage, and warehouses notified as market places under the state APMC Acts. The central legislation says the definition of a ‘trade area’, where central provisions will apply, will be all areas other than the ones mentioned above.
The Rajasthan government seems to be exploring this loophole in the legislation and has declared all FCI and state warehouses mandis, so that all transactions taking place in these would be eligible for state taxes.