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Controversial Farmers Act 2020: Boon or Bane?

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Revised Farmers Act: Boon or Bane For Farmers?

On Sunday, President Ramnath Kovind gave his assent to all three farm bills, thereby making it a Farmers Act 2020 that has infuriated the ongoing controversy and protests by farmers and oppositions.

Let us try to understand the Acts and their respective issues:

Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act:

  • Provisions:

The Act majorly talks about “inter-state” and “intra-state” sales of agricultural produce beyond the physical premises of APMC markets.

AMPCs or Mandis (Agricultural market produce committee) is a state market system primarily established in the 1950s to protect and prevent farmers’ exploitation by large retailers by providing minimum support price (MSP). However, given recent times, due to lack of traders in these APMCs, more commission is charged by middlemen; certain traders and functionaries having monopoly led to less competitive prices for farmer’s produce.

With an intension to reform the agricultural sector, the Government enables the farmers to trade beyond these mandis. Farmers now have the freedom to directly trade with private sectors or individuals and sell their crops outside the state.

The Act nowhere directly implies that APMC or MSP would be abolished. The Government assured that these mandis would continue. The Act only encourages farmers to go beyond these markets and sell their produce at a competitive market price, as only 6 per cent of farmers benefit from MSP.

  • The Act prohibits state Governments from levying any tax or market fee onto the outside trade of APMC.

If any trade occurs beyond the established mandis, the State or Central Government won’t levy tax. Initially, from the trade in the APMC market, the State Government would earn a certain market fee as they have established these markets. This provision is an incentive for private companies or individuals to directly connect with the farmers and offer them a better price.

  • Concerns:

6 significant issues stated by the protestors about the Act:

  1. Transportation expense: In APMC, the farmers would sell their produce to the commission agent or intermediaries, and in turn, they would handle the transportation to respective buyers.
  2. Labors and Commission agents: The Sarkari mandis by State APMC act is widespread all over India and has become a source of livelihood to commission agents, several laborers, and accountants working in the market.
  3. No Taxes: Farmers believe that if no taxes are levied outside the mandis, the buyers would prefer the new system more than the established APMC; this is seen as a way to end the APMC market. It has also caused an uproar by states as they won’t have income from the same.
  4. Shanta Kumar Report of 2015: With only 7,000 APMC in India, most farmers don’t operate into the same. Only 6 per cent of farmers produce go to these mandis; the rest 94 per cent are sold to private buyers. This indicates that private buyers haven’t helped with the development of the agricultural sector.
  5. Bihar: The problem with APMC is immense; following this in 2006, Bihar abolished the same. However, the farmers still suffer price volatility and only attract private investments, which won’t lead to infrastructural changes.
  6. Agriculture is state subject: The states access the authority over the same, however, the Centre took the matters in hand by approaching the Act from “inter-state trade and commerce” under entry 42 of the Union List in the Seventh Schedule.

The farmers are worried that if trade outside the mandis is encouraged, it will eventually wipe out the APMC itself. This is a major cause of the uproar.

Many experts suggest that the APMC model should be renewed instead of a largescale agricultural reform. It is interesting to see that majority of the protests are occurring in states like Haryana and Punjab. The Government, here, is invested into a well-established APMC system, Arthiya (commission agent) working, and the state government buys the majority of wheat and paddy produce.

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020

  • Provisions:

The Act creates a farming framework through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer before the production or rearing of any farm produce.

There are two ways to look at this provision:

  1. When the farmer comes into the contract with a buyer at a price, he will get his pre-determined price irrespective of the market situation. So that would benefit the farmer.
  2. On the other hand, if the same pre-determined price is less than the market after the production, it would lead to a farmer’s loss.

The major concern is that there is no mention of minimum support price (MSP) that buyers need to offer to farmers. Initially, a private company or an individual may offer a better pre-determined price. However, over the period, they would start offering less and less. The Act doesn’t link pre-determined price with Minimum support price.

  • The Act provides a three-level dispute settlement mechanism: the conciliation board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, and Appellate Authority.

Concerning a dispute, a farmer or a buyer may approach the set-up board for resolution. If the conflicts remain unsettled, they can reach the Sub-divisional Magistrate. The Parties will also have the right to appeal to an Appellate Authority (presided by collector or additional collector) against decisions of the Magistrate. However, no farmland would be confiscated as recovery due.

  • Concerns:

The dispute related mechanism is dominated by the administrative part of the Government rather than the judiciary. This excludes the farmers from the domain of civil and other courts. A bureaucratic led mechanism may influence political or social identity. Experts suggest an amendment over the same by bringing the judiciary into the picture.

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020

  • Provisions:

The Act allows the Central Government to regulate the supply of certain food items only under extraordinary circumstances (war, famine, unusual price rise, natural calamity)

According to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the Union Government is empowered to amend the schedule to add or remove a commodity to it under the public interest and in consultation with State Governments. The Act eliminates cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion, and potatoes from the list of essential commodities list and operation and control by the Government during extraordinary situations.

  • Concerns:

In extraordinary circumstances, the Government only ‘may’ choose to exercise regulation. Such legislative ambiguity makes one question the entire exercise of introducing this particular provision.

  • The Act allows Stock limits to be imposed on agricultural produce only if there is a steep price rise.

The Government generally imposes stock limits to discourage hoarding items, including food commodities, such as pulses, edible oils, and vegetables. Stocking restrictions are only levied when (i) a 100 per cent increase in the retail price of horticultural produce; and (ii) a 50 per cent increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items. This paves the way for the Big cooperates to enter into the sector.

  • Concerns:

The Act welcomes private individual’s investment; however, limiting the stocking to certain restrictions may increase hoarding by these individuals.

All three Acts lead to reformation in the agricultural sector, suggested by economics experts and several committees. The question about boon or bane with regards to the Act comes with its implementation. It is the perception at which the private individuals invest in the agricultural sector to decide the farmer’s fate.

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LLP Amendment Bill Passed

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LLP Amendment Bill II News Aur Chai

The Limited Liability Partnership(Amendment) Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha(Upper House) on July 29, 2021, after the approval of the Union Cabinet on July 28, 2021. Before understanding the LLP Amendment Bill let’s first understand what is LLP.

What is LLP?

Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) is an alternative corporate business form that gives the benefits of limited liability of a company and the flexibility in a partnership. It is a separate legal entity, which is liable to the full extent of its assets but the liability of the partners is limited to their agreed contribution in Limited Liability Partnership. One of the advantages of LLP is that it can continue its validity irrespective of changes in partners. It is capable of joining into new contracts and holding equity in its name.

In this corporate business form, no partner is liable on account of the independent or unauthorised actions of other partners, thus individual partners are shielded from joint liability created by another partner’s illicit business decisions or misbehaviour. Common rights and duties of the partners within a Limited Liability Partnership are governed by an agreement between the partners. However, the LLP is not reassured of the liability for its other obligations as a separate entity. As it contains components of both a ‘corporate structure’ as well as a ‘partnership firm structure’, LLP is called a hybrid between a company and a partnership.  

Which are the countries where the LLP form is functional?

Countries like the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, various Gulf countries and Singapore are the nations where the LLP structure is functional. As per the advice of experts who have studied LLP legislations in various countries, the LLP Act is extensively based on the UK LLP Act of 2000 and the Singapore LLP Act 2005. Both the Acts allow the creation of LLP in a corporate body form which means as a separate legal entity, separate from its partners. 

What is the LLP Amendment Bill & what are the key highlights of the bill? 

Limited Liability Partnership Amendment Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on August 4, 2021. All the members of the Upper House had agreed to pass this bill and have been working towards it since July 29, 2021. The Amendment Bill aims to boost greater ease of living to law-abiding corporates and to legitimize certain provisions of the Act. 

Some of the important highlights of the bill are:

  • Decriminalize certain offences: As per the Bill, it defines the way of operating the LLP’s provided that violation of these requirements will lead to punishment with a fine varying from 25,000 INR to five lakh INR. The requirements consist of changes in partners of the LLP, change in registered office, filing declaration of account and annual returns & agreement between the partners and an LLP. The bill exacts a monetary fine.

  • Punishment on fraud: Under the Act, if a partner or an LLP carry out any forgery activities to their creditors and every individual who is involved in the hoax will be punished with up to two years of imprisonment, along with the 50,000 INR to five lakh INR of fine. The Bill increases the term of imprisonment from two to five years. 

  • Compounding of offences: The bill amends to provide an officer who will be appointed by the central government, may compound the offences and impose a punishable fine. If the offence was compounded by an LLP or its partners, then in this case a similar offence cannot be compounded within three years. 

  • Institution of Special Court: This bill enables the central government to establish special courts for assuring active trail of offences under the Act. The special court consists of a Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge. They will adjudicate offences punishable with three or more years of imprisonment and a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate for other offences. They will be selected with the accord of the Chief Justice of the High Court. 

  • Opening of Small LLP’s: This Bill contributes to the formation of small LLP’s in which the partners contribute up to 25 lakh INR, turnover for the coming year is up to 40 lakh INR. The government can declare certain LLP as start-up LLP. 

  • Non-compliance with tribunal orders:  As per the Act, non-compliance with an ordinance of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) is a punishable offence of up to six months imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 INR. This bill removes such offences.

  • Adjudicating Officers: As per the bill, the central government may assign adjudicating officers for allotting penalties under the Act. These officers will be central government officers only. Appeals against the orders of the Adjudicating officer will lie in the hand of the Regional Director. 

  • Institution of Appellate Tribunal: As per the bill, the appeals cannot be made against an order that he’s passed along with the permission of the parties. The Appeals should be filed within the time frame of 60 days of order. 

  • Standards of accounting: According to the bill, the central government may specify the criteria of accounting and auditing for groups of LLP in meeting with the National Financial Reporting Authority.  

These are the salient parts of the amended bill. 

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India-Bangladesh: Reopen Cross-Border Rail Lines After 56 years

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India-Bangladesh II News Aur Chai

On August 1, 2021, Indian Railways sent the first stone-filled freight train to Bangladesh from Damdim Station of the Northeast Frontier Railway, resuming activity on the Haldibari Chilahati route. The network between Bangladesh and India will improve due to the continuing rail course that snapped in 1965.

After the partition in 1947, seven rail joins were functional among India and then East Pakistan till 1965. The Haldibari-Chilahati rail interface is one of those courses. As indicated by the railway authorities, the main products train to convey stone chips left from Damdim station of Jalpaiguri area in West Bengal on Sunday morning.

It came to a halt at Chilahati station in the Nilphamari region in the early evening. Aside from the Haldibari-Chilahati rail connect, at present, there are four working rail routes between India and Bangladesh. The current operational rail routes are – Petrapole (India)- Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India)– Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)- Rohanpur (Bangladesh) and Radhikapur (India)– Birol (Bangladesh).

This railway interface between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) was initiated by the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh during the PM level virtual summit on December 17, 2020. Things that can be transported from India to Bangladesh via this railway combining rocks and boulders, food grains, fresh fruits, chemical fertilizers, onions, chilli, garlic, ginger, fly ash, clay, limestone, wood, and lumber, etcetera. From Bangladesh to India, everything is allowed which exported.

“The commissioning of this rail interface will establish the India-Bangladesh rail connection and future trade. Likewise, the revamped rail network to key ports and dry docks will help boost neighbourhood trade and improve the monetary and social well-being of the space,” the high commission said.

The Government of India gave over ten-wide-measure diesel trains as an aid to help Bangladesh Railways. The virtual event was attended by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, and their Bangladeshi accomplices Md Nurul Islam Sujon and Dr A K Abdul Momen on July 27, 2020. Feni Bridge (Maitree Setu) interfacing LCS Sub room (Tripura) and LCS Ramgarh (Bangladesh) have been introduced on a virtual stage by both the Prime Ministers on March 09, 2021.

This will fundamentally further develop availability with Bangladesh. The preliminary attempt of the parcel of Indian merchandise from Kolkata to Agartala through Chattogram had led in July 2020, notwithstanding the pandemic. Bangladesh – India, the connection is presently supposed to be at its best.

The year 2021, regardless of the continuous COVID-19 pandemic, has been seeing a significant level of commitment at political and official levels. Prime Minister Modi paid a state visit to Bangladesh from March 26 – 27. He participated in the Golden Jubilee celebration of Independence of Bangladesh, the centenary of the birth of the founding father Benjabandu Sheikh Mujipur Rahman, and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of peaceful relations between India and Bangladesh. Both governments are trying different measures to rebuild the railway hub before 1965 and, another connection network existed between India and Bangladesh.

During the visit of PM Hasina to New Delhi in October 2019, the two governments chose to initiate Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok-Dhaka and Dhaka-Siliguri-Darjeeling-Dhaka transport administration to upgrade people to people contact between both the nations. The path run of Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok-Dhaka was likewise held in December 2019.

In May 2020, the second appendix of the Inland Waters Transit and Trade Protocol (PIWTT) approved two new routes in the India-Bangladesh Protocol (Sonamura Daudkandi on the Gomti waterway, and from Dhulia to Godagiri to Aricha in the current Padma), five new ports of call and two extended ports of call. Sonamura-Daudkandi Protocol Route had also operationalized in September 2020.

Haldibari-Chilahati Rail Link – Connectivity benefits: 

The Haldibari-Chilahati route will give travel association with Bangladesh from Assam and West Bengal in India. The rail network will connect the prime ports, dry ports, to help the development. It will boost the financial and social advancement of the area.

Businesses and everyday citizens of the two nations will want to receive the rewards of the two merchandise and traveller train administrations when all trains are anticipated procedure on the course. With the new rail route, individuals from Bangladesh can visit tourist destinations like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars in India.

Also, the Karimganj and Mahisashan rail connection between Assam and Bangladesh is to be functional from 2022. The other rail connection between Akhaura (Bangladesh) and Agartala (India) will be operational by the end of the year.

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Assam Issues Travel Advisory Due To Safety Concerns

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Assam Travel II News Aur Chai

Assam Government on Thursday issued a travel advisory asking its residents not to travel to Mizoram due to safety concerns and asked those already in the state to exercise caution. The travel advisory came after the tension between the neighbouring states, days after the violent border clashes erupted in which seven people were killed.

Advisory issued by MS Manivannan, Commissioner and secretary in Assam’s home and the political department said, “Given the critical prevailing situation, the people of Assam advised not to travel to Mizoram as any threat to the personal safety of people of Assam cannot be accepted”.

A day before the Assam travel advisory, Mizoram issued a public notice stating that “It is hereby notified that there shall be no restrictions on the movement of non-residents of Mizoram traveling through Kolasib district”, followed by the phone numbers of the officers if any problem arises.

Mizoram Police has filed an FIR against Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and four police officers, along with two officials connected with the clashes at the inter-state border. On charges of Attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy in connection with the violent border clashes.

On the other hand, Assam police Summoned Mizoram Rajya Sabha member K Vanlalvena And six top officials over the alleged role in border tension.  K Vanlalvena told reporters on Wednesday, “More than 200 policemen entered a territory and they pushed back our policeman from our own post and they gave firing orders first before we fired. They are lucky that we didn’t kill them all. If they come again, we shall kill them all.”

Amid the Tensions, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga tweeted, “Northeast India will always be one,” 

Assam and Mizoram share a 164.6-km-long border, which has long been a cause of dispute. Three districts in the south of Assam Hailakandi, Cachar, and Karimganj share the border with Mizoram’s Kolasib, Aizawl and Mamit districts.

On 26 July, border tensions erupted between Both the neighbouring States Assam and Mizoram, in which 6 Assam police personnel and a civilian were dead. Both states are blaming each other for the violence on Twitter, asking the centre to intervene and resolve the situation amicably.

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