Two parties – Congress and the NCP – of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi coalition have declared that they will not implement the farm laws which were passed amid huge protests in Parliament on Sunday. The Shiv Sena, whose chief minister Uddhav Thackeray heads the government, is yet to make its position public on the issue, though it has been criticising the central government over the bills.
Deputy chief minister and Nationalist Congress leader Ajit Pawar said that the farm as well as the labour bills will not be implemented in the state. State revenue minister and Maharashtra Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said that all ruling parties are against the newly enacted laws and the decision of not implementing them in the state will be taken collectively after due deliberation.
The Congress and the NCP supported the nationwide protest by farmers to oppose the passage of three farm bills. Various farmer organisations like Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Lok Sangharsh Morcha held protest marches, blocked highways, burnt copies of the bills and formed human chains in at least 21 districts in Maharashtra on Friday to oppose the bills. The farmer organisations have announced to intensify the protest if the bills are not withdrawn by the central government.
“These bills were passed in the haste. We are studying the legalities of the bills. Have taken a call to not implement them in the state,” said Ajit Pawar. His cabinet colleague Balasaheb Thorat also spoke against the bills. “We have been opposing them tooth and nail. We will discuss the laws among us to take steps against their implementation in the state,” said Thorat.
The Shiv Sena has invited criticism by Maharashtra BJP leaders for its ‘hypocritical stance’ of supporting the bills in the Lok Sabha and walking out in the Rajya Sabha.
“The issue will be discussed in the coordination committee of three parties. Our stand this time was similar to the one taken during the CAA debate in Parliament early this year. But on farm issues we would not support the bills and their implementation in Maharashtra. The stand will be clarified in due course,” said a Sena functionary requesting anonymity.
The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, led by former MP Raju Shetti, burnt the copies of the bills in Kolhapur.
“Shetkari Sanghatana has always been against the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) and our leader late Sharad Joshi used to call these committees ‘abattoirs’ of the farmers. However we do not endorse the way the existing system of farm produce marketing is being thrashed out by the central government. This is nothing but an attempt of making farmers slaves in the hands of industrialists,” Shetti said.
He said that it is the step towards privatization of the Food Corporation of India and National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (Nafed), who purchase about 30% of the farm produce.
Ajit Nawale, general secretary, ABKS, said that the protests were held in 21 districts of the state by farmers.
“At least the farmers have some mechanism in place to market their produce at a reasonable price in the form of APMCs today. The bills passed in Parliament are the first step towards handing over farm marketing to a few industrial houses who will decide the prices of the produce. Though the Centre has been claiming these bills are a way to free farmers from the clutches of APMCs, the government has freed itself from the responsibilities of fair and remunerative prices to the farmers. In Maharashtra, the Fadnavis government had brought bills to regularise APMCs, but it could not set up an alternative mechanism to the APMCs to give farmers remunerative prices for their produce. It was a failed attempt,” he said.
Farmers from Thane, Palghar, Nashik held rasta roko on national highways, including Mumbai-Jaipur-Delhi.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Congress announced a programme to be implemented over next five weeks to oppose the farm bills.
The party has announced to organise a drive #SpekaUpForFarmers on social media to garner support against bills, virtual farmer rally and gather signatures from 1 crore farmers opposing the bills.
Senior Congress leader HK Patil, who has been recently appointed as Maharashtra Congress in-charge, said in a press conference in Mumbai, “Under pressure from big industries, Modi government passed the farm and labour bills which will uproot and destroy farmers and workers in the country. The bills will bring back the feudal zamindari system in the country. The laws should be immediately repealed.”