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Punjab’s agriculture laws have provision to send farmers to jail: Tomar

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narendra singh tomar in rajya sabha
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Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar 

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday put up a strong defence of the new farm laws. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Tomar reiterated the government’s offer to amend the laws and asked the opposition members to tell “what’s black” in the reforms. He also rubbished opposition’s charge that laws will give power to corporates over farmers’ lands.

Tomar said farmer unions and the opposition have not been able to point out any lacuna in the three laws. He said that laws give farmers alternatives to sell their produce outside ‘mandis’, and unlike the state government notified market places, such sale would not attract any tax.

Countering the opposition, he said, “We have added a provision that area outside the APMC will be called a trade area, it can be a farmer’s house, field or anything. Our act allows a farmer to sell his produce outside the APMC. Also, trade outside the APMC will not attract any kind of tax, be it Central or state.”

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“Now in APMC, there is a provision for state tax. Outside the APMC, there is no tax, the Centre’s act abolishes the tax. I wants to ask farmers, especially the Punjab farmers… the agitation should have been against the tax levied (by state government) on sale made in mandis but strangely the protests are against freeing of the system from such taxes,” he said, intervening during the discussion on a motion thanking the President for his address to the joint sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha at the start of the Budget Session.

He also said that the Punjab government’s contract farming act has a provision to send farmers behind the bars whereas in the Government of India’s act, a farmer can exit a contract anytime. Besides,  Punjab’s act also talks about a fine of Rs 5 lakh.

Tomar also refuted opposition’s claim that farmers across the country are agitated over the three new laws, saying “those in just one state are being misinformed and instigated”.

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The government, he said, is committed to the welfare of farmers and to the continuation of the mandi system of procurement of crops on minimum support price (MSP) based mechanism.

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, have been protesting at Delhi’s borders for over two months demanding rollback of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. Farmers are opposing the laws, terming them against their interest as it will dismantle the mandi system and the MSP structure. Besides, they believe that the laws will give power to corporates over their lands. 

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However, the the three laws — enacted in September 2020, have been projected by the Central government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell anywhere in the country. The government has repeatedly assured the farmers that these three laws will not do away with MSP and mandis.

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