Much ado about nothing: Did Congress promise to repeal APMC Act?

Former Congress leader Sanjay Jha on Friday exposed the hypocrisy of his former party saying that it had promised the abolition of APMC Act in its 2019 election manifesto.

The Congress is opposing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government on the Farmers' Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.

These will replace Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 to promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade in agriculture produce; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 to engage with processors, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers, exporters; and Amendment to the Essential Commodities Act to liberalize regulatory environment for farmers.

Jha, a former Congress spokesperson, in a tweet said, "Folks, in our Congress Manifesto for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, we had ourselves proposed abolition of APMC Act and making agricultural produce free from restrictions. This is what Modi government has done in the farmers bills. BJP and Congress are on the same page here."

In its manifesto, the Congress had made promises that look similar to what the Modi government has done now.

"Congress will repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committees Act and make trade in agricultural produce—including exports and inter-state trade—free from all restrictions," the manifesto said

"The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 belongs to the age of controls. Congress promises to replace the Act by an enabling law that can be invoked only in the case of emergencies," it added.

Congress and other like-minded parties have been vehemently opposing the pro-farmer reforms inside and outside Parliament.

In a report, IANS cited sources close to the government as saying that the Congress is hypocritical in its opposition to the pro-farmer bills introduced by the Modi government as it also wanted barrier-free trade of agriculture produce when in power at the Centre.

Sources say that the actions of the Congress in the past demonstrate that when in power it was working in the same direction and while in opposition now, it is opposing these reforms.

"It is evident that Congress also wanted barrier-free trade of agriculture produce. Thus, Congress is hypocritical in its opposition to the pro-farmer bills introduced by the Modi government," sources said.

Sources say that in different states, the arrangement of contract farming was encouraged according to the local requirement at different time periods. It was not limited to any particular party, different political parties adopted it during their tenure. "Why are the same parties which were in power in the respective states are now opposing the reforms brought by Central government?", they asked.

Various states such as Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana (2007, INC), Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka (2003, INC), Maharashtra (2006, INC-NCP), Madhya Pradesh (2003, INC), Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha (2006, BJD), Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura and Uttarakhand have made provisions for contract farming under the state APMC Act. Three states including Punjab (2013, SAD), Tamil Nadu (2019, AIADMK), Odisha (2020, BJD) have passed separate Contract Farming Acts.

(With IANS inputs)

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