Thursday, October 28, 2021

Punjab govt’s Bill proposes 3yrs jail, fine for sale/purchase below MSP

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday urged all parties to unanimously pass in the Vidhan Sabha his government’s four historic Bills, which provide for imprisonment of not less than 3 years and fine for sale/purchase of wheat or paddy under a farming agreement below 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 provision on punishment for sale/purchase below MSP has been incorporated in The Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020. One of the four Bills presented in the Vidhan Sabha today by the Chief Minister, the Bill provides that no sale/purchase is done below MSP and violation of the same shall invite imprisonment and fine as above.

The Bill seeks to amend sections 1(2), sections 19 and 20 of the Centre’s Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. It also proposes to add new sections that are section 4, 6 to 11.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020, also seeks to amend sections 1(2), 14 and 15 the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 to ensure that sale or purchase of wheat or paddy in the State is not allowed below the MSP. The amendment Bill also seeks to provide for punishment for harassment of farmers or payment of less price to the farmers by inserting new sections 6 to 11.

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Both these Bills are aimed at preventing the damage apprehended by the farmers of Punjab with the enactment of the Central Act by restoring various safeguards, including Minimum Support Price mechanism through the regulatory framework of the APMC laws, in order to secure and protect the interests and livelihood of farmers and farm labourers as also all others engaged in agriculture and related activities.

Meanwhile, to protect the consumers from hoarding and black-marketing of agricultural produce to secure, and protect the interests and livelihood of farmers and farm labourers as also all others engaged in agriculture and related activities, the state government has brought in The Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020.

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The Bill seeks to amend the Centre’s ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020’ by amending section 1(2) and section 3(1A) of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. It seeks to ensure status quo ante as on 4th June 2020 with regard to implementation of the Central Act namely, ‘The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020’.

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The fourth Bill introduced by the Chief Minister provides relief to the farmers from attachment of their land not exceeding 2.5 acres. “The Code of Civil Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2020” seeks to insert a provision for exemption of agriculture land not exceeding 2.5 acres from Section 60 of The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, which provides for attachment/decree of various properties – moveable and immoveable. Proviso-b to this Section states that the properties of the farmers such as cattle, implements, cowsheds, etc, would be exempt from attachment, but as on date agriculture land can be attached. Given the farmers’ apprehension about attachment/decree of their land as a consequence of enforcement of farming contracts or otherwise, the state government is seeking, through this Bill, to give full exemption to small farmers and others from attachment or decree of land up to 2.5 acres.

This is in line with the Congress election manifesto for 2017, in keeping with which the state government had earlier amended the Punjab State Cooperative Societies Act, 1961, deleting section 67-A, which allows the cooperative financing institutions to attach the land of farmers. For the financing institutions other than the Cooperative Banks, the matter is within the jurisdiction of Central Government.

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