Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday moved a resolution against the Centre's new farm laws in a one-day special Session of the Assembly. This comes as scores of farmers are braving cold wave to protest at various border points in Delhi.
Speaking in the Assembly, Vijayan said the agitation, if it continues, will seriously affect Kerala.
"The current situation makes it clear that if this agitation continues, it will seriously affect Kerala. There is no doubt that Kerala will starve if the supply of food items from other states stops," Vijayan said.
"At a time when the agricultural sector is facing a major crisis, the Central government has introduced and passed three new laws in Parliament that will have a major impact on the agricultural sector," said Kerala CM.
"The capital is witnessing the legendary struggle of the farmers. There is a great will behind this protest that has not been seen until recently. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020, The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020, The Essential Commodities (Amendment), which were introduced and passed by the Central Government in Parliament. Farmers are protesting to scrap all the three laws," he added.
The farmers are joining the struggle and fighting the extreme cold in Delhi. Thirty-two farmers lost their lives during the 35-day strike, the Chief Minister claimed.
"Legislatures have an obligation to take legislation seriously when it causes great concern and suspicion among the people affected. According to the latest official report of the Central Government, 43.3 per cent of the country's workforce is employed in agriculture. For our country, agriculture is not just a productive sector, it is a part of our culture," he added.
Therefore, the agrarian reforms need to be carefully conceived and implemented. Kerala has vast experience in this regard. Kerala is a state that has successfully implemented the Land Reforms Act, said Vijayan.
In addition, Kerala has made excellent interventions in resolving agricultural crises with the participation of local bodies and co-operative terminations. After the Green Revolution in the country in the 1960s, a system was set up to provide foodgrain farmers with a minimum price for their produce, he added.
"However, support prices are only available for a few products. In many parts of the country, falling prices of agricultural products and farmer suicides have become major social problems," said Vijayan.
In this situation, the government should announce minimum support prices for more produce and take steps to make agriculture profitable, he added.
"Farmers are worried that they will lose even the current support price for food grains. The serious problem that arises is that the bargaining power of farmers is often weakened in the face of the strength of corporate entities," said Vijayan.
Not only does the law not provide for legal protection for farmers, it also lacks the capacity to wage legal battles with corporates. There should be a system in place where agricultural products are procured by the Central government and distributed to the needy at fair prices. Instead, the Central government has allowed corporates to take over the trade in agricultural products. The central government is shirking its responsibility to provide fair prices to farmers, he added.
The Chief Minister coninued saying, there is a distrust among farmers about the fair price of agricultural produce. At the same time, food security is an important issue. When the government withdraws from stockpiling and distribution, hoarding and black market will increase and food supply and hence food security will be jeopardised.
"The situation will be aggravated by the exclusion of essential commodities including food grains and pulses from the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act," said Vijayan.
The urgency of the current situation makes it clear that if this agitation continues, it will seriously affect Kerala. There is no doubt that Kerala will starve if the supply of food items from other states to Kerala, a consumer state, stops, he added.
"Especially at this stage of the Covid , Kerala could not bear the impact of such a situation. Agriculture is included in the State List. It is a serious problem that these important laws were passed in a hurry without even being sent to the Standing Committee of Parliament for consideration," said Vijayan.
"In view of the above facts, it is reasonable for the farmers the backbone of the country to protest. The Kerala Assembly is urging central government to scrap all the three laws," he added.
The one-day special session was marred with controversy after Governor Arif Mohammed Khan had declined nod for convening the assembly on December 23 to discuss the contentious laws, saying Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had not addressed the question raised by him on the nature of emergency warranating the very brief session.
In a letter to Vijayan, the Governor had also stated that the government wanted the special session to "discuss a problem for which you have no jurisdiction to offer any solution".
The state Cabinet on December 24 again decided to recommend convening of the session, following which Khan gave his assent.
A large number of farmers mainly from Punjab and Haryana are demanding the repeal of the laws, contending that these would pave the way for a dismantling of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanism and the mandi system, leaving them to the "mercy" of big corporates.
The government has been saying these fears are misplaced and offered to hold fresh talks and resolve the issues.
(With ANI inputs)