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Maharashtra farmers challenge Article 31B of Constitution to overcome agrarian crisis

The farmers are of the opinion that the government has used these laws to restrict their growth

mumbai Updated: Jun 19, 2018 12:20 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,Supreme Court
APMC Vegetable Market during a farmers strike across Maharashtra in June, 2018(HT photo)

A group of farmers has taken their fight for survival to the court of law now. They have filed a petition in the Supreme Court requesting the abolishment of Article 31B of the Indian Constitution. They claim that the removal of the article will pave the way to challenge many anti-farmers’ laws that are allegedly the main cause of the agrarian crisis in the country.

Some of the laws fall under the Agricultural Land Ceiling Act, Essential Commodities Act, and Land Acquisition Act, which are part of Ninth Schedule of the Constitution and thus cannot be challenged in any court of law, currently. The petition is being filed by the Kisaan Putra Andolan (KPA), a movement started by farmers’ activist Amar Habib.

Habib believes that times have changed and so has the attitude of the government which he perceives of having taken on an air of indifference to the cause. It has stopped considering the farmers’ street agitations and hence, through the KPA they have identified the root cause of the agrarian crisis and plan to eliminate it with the help of judiciary.

Explaining how the laws are anti-farmer, Makarand Doijad, KPA activist, who filed the petition on March 21, said, “Every person has the right to determine the price of their product, storage capacity and transportation in the country for every business except farmers, according to the Essential Commodities Act.

“The central government possesses all these rights with them, they decide the prices of agricultural produce and everything related to it. Moreover, the government has also restricted land holdings of farmers, which means they cannot own land more than the determined limit,” Doijad said.

“According to the Maharashtra Agricultural Lands (Ceiling on Holding) Land Act, 1961, a farmer is empowered to hold only 18 acres irrigated land; or 27 acres semi-irrigated land; or 36 acres non-irrigated land; or 54 acres land in hilly areas. If the farmer, by using his own resources, brings water to the hilly area, then the government will take away 36 acres from him on the grounds that he now possesses irrigated land which has a cap of 18 acres, which is suppressive in nature, the activist said.

The farmers are of the opinion that the government has used these laws to restrict their growth, and consequently that of the agricultural sector. Doijab explained that these laws could not be challenged due to Article 31B.

“Article 31B itself is unconstitutional as it violates the right to equality and justice to all citizens of the country as it says that all the laws incorporated as part of Ninth Schedule cannot be challenged in any court of law. This simply means farmers cannot challenge them despite them being Draconian in nature. If we can abolish these laws then the government will not need to provide any farm loan waivers,” said Habib on Monday.

First Published: Jun 19, 2018 12:18 IST