To reform agriculture markets, need joint Centre-state oversight: Niti Aayog

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By Zia Haq

States control farm commodity markets since agriculture is a part of the state list. Changing this will require a constitutional amendment and could be a touchy issue for states.

New Delhi: The Niti Aayog has suggested that both the Centre and states have a shared jurisdiction over agricultural marketing, a bid to rev up reforms in the sector battling distress in many parts of the country.

Putting agricultural marketing in the concurrent list is among a series of policy options being weighed by the government’s think tank, as unremunerative prices make farmers edgy.

“It is in the interest of the (agriculture) sector if states feel (so), now that the interstate movement of agricultural commodities is very high,” Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand told HT.

“A state can make a law which is applicable in the state only. Now since larger proportion of production of the state is moving out of the state, it is governed by more than one state,” Chand said on Wednesday. It remained to be seen if states would agree to a federal or a national law, he said.

Chand, an agricultural economist, recently made a presentation before the PM’s economic advisory council on reforms needed in the farm sector.

The Indian Constitution has laid down the subjects on which Parliament and state assemblies can formulate laws. But, there are some matters which both the state and the Centre can legislate on and those are in the concurrent list.

States control farm commodity markets since agriculture is a part of the state list. Changing this will require a constitutional amendment and could be a touchy issue for states.

Chand said states would obviously have to agree to the change.

Barriers to entry in agricultural markets, weak competition and instances of collusions (between traders) were major reasons for inefficiencies, he said.

“Just to address those kinds of things, the model APMC act is there. But why states are not implementing this act?” he said.

No state had implemented the model agricultural product market committee act in totality, Chand said.

“There is a distressing tendency to concentrate powers in the Union (Centre). This suggestion is another example. I doubt it has been thought through. Agriculture is not a Union subject. The Union should stay out of it,” said professor Vinod Vyasulu of the Jindal School of Public Policy.

One option could be an agricultural council on the lines of the one for GST, with the Centre as an observer, to deal with interstate issues, he said.

Source: Hindustan Times

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