Sunday, May 22, 2022
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State Of The Farm Laws

Agriculture is a state subject, but Central laws have historically prevailed. Will the three farm laws survive farmers’ anger?

State Of The Farm Laws
Wheels Of Protest

From a trickle to a tide, the farmers’ protest since November last year could be the longest and biggest in independent India, with no end in sight and more folks joining in. Behind the optics of langars, mountain hiking tents, tractor wheelies, the Republic Day tractor rally, and mahapanchayats, the rhetoric is divided—as is the context. The farmers essentially want the Narendra Modi government to rescind three amended farm laws and guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for their produce. But the debate outside the picket lines is adding layer on layer—one being former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda’s argument in Parliament that farm legislation is “a state subject” and the Centre should have sought the states’ opinion before passing the three laws. PM Modi was quick in his response, as he cited several instances where political forces clashed in the past, including the decision to push ahead with the Green Revolution. He pointed out that “those who resort to politicising the issue have done something or the other (agriculture reforms) in their states as well…”

Their remarks wrestle with particularly fraught questions: Was the process of agriculture reforms through the three laws done in haste? Did the Centre’s action in any way impinge on the rights of the states? Experts, including a former Union agriculture minister, feel there is ground for the charge, which has made several states, led by Punjab, to mull steps to counter or modify the impact of the laws. Former minister Sompal Shastri says that the idea of agriculture being a state subject is highly misplaced. “If that was really the case, then why doesn’t the Central government steer out of it and declare that agriculture is a state subject just like land rights, land laws and land revenue? Why does the Centre maintain a large agriculture department and employs over 7,000 people in various institutions on its watch?”

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