Punjab CM flays Centre’s agriculture sector reforms

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Punjab CM flays Centre’s agriculture sector reforms
Chandigarh:  Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday flayed the “reforms” announced by the central government for the agriculture sector as “yet another brazen attempt to erode and destabilise the country’s federal structure”.

He warned that it could pave the way for disbanding of the minimum support price (MSP) system and the food grain procurement regime, triggering unrest among the state’s farmers.

Opposing the Centre’s move to what he called “suppress the rights of the states”, as enshrined under the Constitution, the Chief Minister said Punjab would fight any steps taken by the Centre to “weaken the federal structure” of the country through such direct and detrimental interference in the well-established agricultural produce marketing system of the state.

Such measures, he warned, will severely and adversely impact the food security of the nation, which Punjab’s hardworking and selfless farmers have sustained ever since the Green Revolution.

Pointing out that the federal structure of India envisages well-defined roles and responsibilities for the Centre and the states, Amarinder Singh said that under the constitutional framework, agriculture is a state subject, and the Union government has no powers to make any legislation to deal with the dynamics of agricultural production, marketing and processing.

“These are state matters, which individual states are best placed to handle and manage,” he said, describing the Farming Produce, Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 as a highly ill-conceived move on the part of the central government.

Asserting that the move would be damaging to Punjab interests, the Chief Minister said during a videoconference that the Centre’s habit of taking sudden decisions and forcing them on the states, without taking their views into account, was violative of the very federal system in India.

The Chief Minister said that such actions during the Covid crisis could have serious economic, social and law and order consequences.

“The farmers will not gain but will actually suffer at the hands of traders due to the legislative change,” he said.

Amarinder Singh pointed out that the Centre had not even created any dispute redress mechanism, and had not consulted the state governments, which would be left to handle the consequences of this “hasty action”.

Terming the development as a “cruel joke on the farming community”, whose interests he said have been continuously ignored by the NDA government, the Chief Minister said far from ushering in an era of much-needed reforms in agriculture, the announcements are in fact a clear and concerted design to undermine the systems and processes that are holding the sector together.

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