Override new farm laws, Sonia Gandhi tells states ruled by Congress

The tractor which was set afire by Indian Youth Congress activists at India Gate
Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday urged states under her party’s rule to enact legislation to bypass the farm laws recently passed by Parliament on a day when her party’s MP, T N Prathapan, moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of those laws. Party leader and  Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who held a sit-in at Khatkar Kalan — the ancestral village Bhagat Singh — said his government would, too, move the apex court. 

 “The Congress President has advised the Congress-ruled states to explore the possibilities to pass laws in their respective states under Article 254(2) of the Constitution which allows the state legislatures to pass a law to negate the Anti-Agriculture Central laws encroaching upon State’s jurisdiction under the Constitution,” the party stated.

Some states, especially the Congress-ruled Punjab, are witnessing protests by farmers against the new Central laws.

“This (states passing laws negating central legislations) would enable the states to bypass the unacceptable anti-farmers’ provisions in the three draconian Agricultural law including the abolition of MSP and disruption of APMCs in Congress ruled states,” the party said.

Earlier in the day, the Punjab chief minister suggested that Pakistan’s spy agency ISI would use farmers’ unrest over the new farm laws and try to foment trouble in the state.  Addressing a gathering during his sit-in protest, the CM slammed the Centre for bringing the farm laws, saying they would “destroy” the farming community.

“I have said we will take this matter forward. The president has passed these Bills and now we will take this matter to the Supreme Court,” Singh said.

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh stages a sit-in at Khatkar Kalam, the ancestral village of Bhagat Singh
To another question, he said, “The ISI always looks to whom and where it can give guns, bombs and grenades. They have been following it since the beginning. During the last three and half years of our regime, we have arrested around 150 terrorists and seized around 700 weapons… There has been peace in Punjab but when you try to take away someone’s food, then won’t he be angry? He becomes the target for ISI. That is why I am saying whatever they have done is anti-national,” Singh added.

Kerala MP’s plea 

Prathapan, Congress MP from Kerala’s Thrissur constituency, said in his petition to the apex court that the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 was violative of Article 14 (right to equality), 15 (prohibition of discrimination) and 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution.

“Indian agriculture is characterised by fragmentation due to small holdings and has certain inherent weaknesses beyond control such as dependence on weather, uncertainties in production and an unpredictable market. This makes agriculture risky and inefficient in respect of both input and output management.” It said the challenges faced by farmers such as dependence on weather, cannot be addressed by monetisation of the produce to increase their income, instead strengthening the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) system by infusing more capital and effective management of Minimum Support Price.

Torching tractor

Indian Youth Congress activists set a tractor on fire at India Gate in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi on Monday morning to voice their protest against the contentious farm laws.

Five people claiming to be members of the Punjab Youth Congress have been detained, police said.

Protests were also held across the country on the issue.

Support for the farm laws

Meanwhile, a group of former public servants on Monday backed the farm laws and claimed that “disinformation” was being spread over the issue to negatively impact the morale of farmers.

The group of 32 former IAS officers includes former finance secretary S Narayan, former banking secretary D K Mittal, former defence secretary G Mohan Kumar, former petroleum secretary Saurabh Chandra, and former civil aviation secretary K N Srivastava.

Referring to the tractor burning incident, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said it was condemnable.

“The Congress shamed the country today. Bringing tractor in a truck and then burning it at India Gate is a drama enacted by the Congress and we condemn it. The party has been trying to do politics in the name of farmers, and it has been unmasked. It has enacted a drama for publicity,” he told reporters .

Accusing the Opposition party of misleading farmers, Javadekar said its manifesto had promised doing what the Modi government has done with its farm sector reform bills, and added that former prime minister Manmohan Singh had also spoken similarly on the issue.   "Now the Congress is trying to mislead farmers by speaking in a different voice. But it will not succeed," he said, noting that the minimum support price and APMC mechanism is continuing.

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