The opposition-governed Punjab will on Monday become the first Indian state to pass legislation to bypass the three federal farmer laws enacted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal government last month.
"The Punjab Government has decided to convene a special session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha (legislative assembly) on Monday, October 19, to bring in a legislation to counter the dangerous anti-farmer Farm Laws of the central government", said a release from the Chief Minister's Office after a cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
"With the Cabinet decision, the Punjab Governor has been authorized to convene the 13th (Special) Session of 15th Punjab Vidhan Sabha, as per clause (1) of Article 174 of the Constitution of India", said the release.
"It may be recalled that the 12th session of the 15th Punjab Vidhan Sabha concluded on August 28, 2020 in which a resolution was passed by majority to reject the contentious farm ordinances viz. The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 besides the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020, promulgated by the Union Government", it added.
Commenting on the decision, senior party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told Sputnik that Punjab's Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had already seen a copy of Congress’ model farm law "The Protection of Farmers Interest and Farm Produce (Special Provisions and State Amendment) Bill, 2020".
Singhvi, a leading lawyer and three-term MP, was one of the brains behind Congress’ bill. “I have put the clause that paying MSP for every deal shall be mandatory at the minimum”, revealed Singhvi.
The decision to convene the assembly session by Punjab comes two weeks after Congress President Sonia Gandhi appealed to the state governments of Punjab, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan— where the party is in power— to pass their own respective legislations to counter the three new federal farm laws.
The 73-year-old Congress chief cited Article 254(2) of the Constitution, arguing that the constitutional provision would allow the states to pass a law “to negate the Anti-Agriculture Central laws encroaching upon State’s jurisdiction under the Constitution”.
The three new federal laws, The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020, have triggered widespread protests across the country. Farmer unions, backed by the Congress Party, have expressed fears that the laws could be used by private players to exploit Indian farmers.
Protests have been particularly fierce in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, where the passing of these laws has been accompanied by protests and blockades of rail and road traffic. Punjab is often referred to as India's "rice bowl", accounting for 10 percent of the overall production.
According to the Hindustan Times, key train routes in Punjab have been blocked since 24 September, prompting the government to call on the farmers for talks.
Earlier in the day, farmer representatives from Punjab reportedly stormed out of a scheduled meeting at federal Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s office when the minister failed to show up.