At a time when BJP’s erstwhile ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has intensified its attack on the Centre over the farm laws, the party has itself come under the scanner for passing the Punjab Contract Farming Act, 2013, when it was in power.
The matter was recently highlighted by Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in the Parliament, who said the Punjab government’s Contract Farming Act had a provision to send farmers behind the bars. “In the Act made by the Centre, the farmer can come out of contract farming at any time,” Tomar told the Rajya Sabha.
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The contract farming law provides a framework for farmers to enter into direct contracts with those who wish to buy farm produce. So far, in most of the country, a farmer could not directly sell his produce to consumers or food processing companies.
The ruling Congress and Opposition Akali Dal leaders have said they never implemented the Act in the state. The Punjab legislation also has a provision to slap a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh on farmers. Interestingly, the one passed by the Modi government has no such provision to punish the farmers.
“If the producer contravenes the provisions of the Act, shall on conviction be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to one month or with fine which shall not be less than Rs 5,000 but may extended to Rs 5 lakh or with both and in the case of a continuing contravention with the fine which in addition to such fine as aforesaid may extend to Rs 100 for everyday after the date of first conviction during which contravention is continued,” the Act mentions.
Another contentious provision in this Act was that civil courts had no jurisdiction in case a dispute arose between the two parties. “No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceeding in respect of any matter the cognisance of which can be taken and disposed of by any authority empowered by this Act or the rules or bye-laws made thereunder,” it says.
Interestingly, the state did not witness any protest to repeal this Act.
In fact, it was Capt Amarinder Singh, during his first term as the chief minister of Punjab in 2002, who introduced contract farming to wean away farmers from the wheat-paddy cycle.
READ | Punjab’s failed attempt with contract farming reason behind reluctance to accept farm laws?