Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh is considering “all options” to make the new agricultural laws ineffective in Punjab, such as approaching the Supreme Court on the basic premise that agriculture is a state subject on which the Centre cannot legislate, and amending the Punjab APMC Act to stipulate that the entire state will be a “market yard”, officials told ET.

The CM has put his legal team on the job and it is expected that opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab will support the Congress government in this battle against the BJP’s move to rush farm bills through Parliament, said people aware of the matter.

For the case to be filed before the Supreme Court the state is expected to argue that agriculture is a state subject under Entry 14 and the Centre has wrongly used “trade and commerce” which is Entry Number 33 in the concurrent list to pass the bills in an unconstitutional manner. “We are waiting for the President to sign the bills and for the bills to be notified. There has been a delay, after the bills were passed four days ago, as the opposition met the President,” said a Punjab leader, who did not wish to be identified.

The other option being considered is calling a special session of the assembly to amend the Punjab APMC Act and negate the impact of the central bills. The central bill, by clause 2(m), stipulates that the Government of India has defined trade areas under the bill as one that do not include the physical boundaries of principal market yards (mandis) formed under the state APMC Act. It means private trade can be carried out outside the premises of the market yards. The option hence is to declare the entire state of Punjab as a principal market yard so that the Centre’s bill becomes ineffective. SAD president Sukhbir Badal has already urged the CM to do so.

Congress Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa has suggested that by the Centre’s law, there is a possibility that warehouses of Food Corporation of India (FCI) get covered under the new law as it stipulates that no market fee or levy can be levied on any farmer in a “trade area” outside the market yards. “Due to this, the Rajasthan government has notified all warehouses of the FCI as a procurement centre under the state APMC Act. I urge you to do the same to ensure all portions of the bills cannot come into force in Punjab,” Bajwa wrote in a letter to the CM.

Farmers began a ‘rail roko’ (stop) protest in Punjab on Thursday and will hold a full Punjab bandh on Friday.

Sukhbir Badal reached Punjab on Thursday and hinted for the first time on a break-up with the BJP. “Neither is an alliance necessary for us, nor is a government necessary for us. Akali Dal can make any sacrifice for farmers. People should make an Akali government in Punjab and we will not let any corporate enter Punjab, whatever law the Centre may bring,” he said.

News Source: Economic Times


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