From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Essential Commodities Act
Mains level : Paper 2- Importance of parliamentary procedure in the passage of laws
A key lesson from the farmers’ opposition to the farm laws is that following the parliamentary procedure in the passage of legislation always pays dividend more so if the changes introduced by the legislation bring substantial changes.
Vested interests resulting in opposition to legislation
- There are strong indications that the new legislation is desirable and will bring in much-needed market reforms in the overregulated farm sector.
- There is no contrary evidence that the new proposals will adversely affect farmers in the long run.
- There is no justification for a minimum support price regardless of demand and supply.
- Legislation that benefits the nation but hurts vested interests will always meet with vehement opposition.
How liberalisation helps: Lessons from non-agricultural sector
- The benefits of liberalising the non-agricultural sector of the economy in 1991 established that market forces cannot be ignored.
- For the first 30 years, under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, several control orders were passed.
- Orders under ECA were passed on products such as cement and steel, and these were intended to ensure their availability at fair prices.
- The result was just the opposite: Severe shortages, a huge black market and massive corruption.
- Equally disastrous were laws relating to monopolies and industrial development.
Importance of parliamentary procedures
- At the heart of a constitutional democracy based on the Westminster model is the importance of Parliament, which is the fountainhead of all laws.
- But, Parliament includes the Opposition as well and even though a bill may be certain to become the law, it is necessary that the established procedure is followed.
- In the face of opposition to the farm laws, it is necessary that the benefits of a new law are demonstrated through debate and discussion.
- There must be empirical or other evidence that shows the deleterious economic consequences of continuing with the status quo.
- As the farm bills marked a radical departure from the existing system of selling agricultural produce, the least that could have been done was to refer them to a Select Committee.
- It is a matter of concern that fewer and fewer bills are being referred to Select Committees or even deliberated upon.
- While 71 per cent of the bills were referred to a Select Committee in the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14), only 25 per cent were so referred in the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19).
- A new law can always come into force at a later date and can even be made applicable piecemeal.
- It is also possible to notify it to apply to select states or districts.
- If laws are likely to meet with opposition by vested interests, the best way to demonstrate their beneficial effects is to implement the laws in select states or districts for a year.
- It is worthwhile considering the implementation of a controversial law on a trial basis.
Consider the question “Describe the important role played by the Select Committee in the passage of the bill. Why the decline in the number of bills referred to the Select Committees is the matter of concern?”
The biggest lesson for the goverment is that following constitutional conventions always pays dividends — it benefits the nation and preserves the dignity of Parliament.