Not minding that its own manifesto had promised to repeal the APMC system, Congress is now opposing the farm market reforms for the sake of opposition and trying various methods to stall the reforms. According to the news reports, Congress is asking its party-ruled states to consider passing a law in order to make the recent farm bills passed by the Centre null and void. Do the state governments have such scope or it is just another political drama by the congress? We check some facts here.
Centre Has Not Touched AMPCs
Interestingly, the ‘model’ bill, a bugle-call for defiance by the Congress-led opposition, may actually be redundant if it can at-all be applied. The legislation, designed to “bypass the unacceptable anti-farmers’ provisions”, claims to protect APMCs, even when the new laws being brought forth actually make no changes to the already state-governed institutions. Under The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, which was one of the three approved last month, all farmers will now be able to sell their produce across the country without the customary constraints of licensing and state-boundaries.
Another facet of the ongoing protests in Punjab, is procurement at MSP or minimum support price, an administrative measure originally introduced to encourage higher investment, adoption of modern farming practices and a more free-trade in agricultural commodities. The new laws, in their essence are devoted to usher-in exactly that. Moreover, even after multiple assurances from the Government of India, that clarify the continued procurement at par with MSP (if not above), a new law to defy these breakthroughs is being designed. The question of the new legislation’s redundancy is therefore, quite obvious.
The Centre Has Its Say in Trade
A riveting development is that the amendments actually present a restriction-free inter-state trade which falls under the centre’s purview as per the Constitution of India’s seventh schedule. The APMC markets that are already overburdened through catering to a much higher geographical area, have not been covered under the new laws and will continue to function under state-legislation. Even with 17 states and 1 UT bringing-in amendments to APMC laws over the years and four states and UTs without APMCs altogether, a new legislation to maintain the monopolistic status quo is seemingly unnecessary.
With each passing day of the congress-led protests in Punjab, resources being floundered and vehicles being torched with unfounded bravado, the larger picture is becoming clearer. That of an unnecessary protest for the very sake of it.
The impact of any laws by Congress-led state governments is meagre in the present scheme of things.