Prez recommends Ahmed Patel's Bill seeking farmer fund

Prez recommends Ahmed Patel's Bill seeking farmer fund

New Delhi
At a time when several areas across India are reeling under drought, President Pranab Mukherjee has recommended consideration of a private member's Bill that seeks to create a welfare fund for farmers of arid, desert and drought-prone regions. Significantly, the Bill was moved by Rajya Sabha member and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel.

The Farmers of Arid and Desert Areas (Welfare and Other Special Provisions) Bill, 2014 was introduced by Patel in Rajya Sabha in December 2014. The proposed welfare fund would involve expenditure from the Consolidate Fund of India. The draft Bill proposes an initial corpus of Rs 10,000 crore from the central government. It estimates that "a sum of Rs 20,000 crore may be involved as recurring expenditure per annum. A non-recurring expenditure of Rs 5,000 crore may also be involved from the Consolidated Fund of India."

Under parliamentary rules and procedures, a Bill which involves expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India, cannot be passed by Parliament unless the President recommends it to the House where it is being considered.

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The President can withhold the recommendation but it is rare. The President, whether to recommend or to withhold such a Bill, goes by the advice of the government, particularly the Finance Ministry. "To put it in layman's language, the recommendation is required lest the Bill becomes a law and the government subsequently finds that it does not have the money to be spent from the Consolidated Fund of India," constitutional expert and former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash C Kashyap said.

In a letter to the Rajya Sabha Secretary General a few days back, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has stated that the President, having been informed about the subject matter of the particular Bill, has recommended its consideration under article 117(3) of the Constitution by the Rajya Sabha.

While only 14 private member's Bills have been passed since Independence, Patel's Bill assumes significance given the humanitarian as well as political ramifications of drought. The Bill seeks to create a welfare fund for farmers at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has led from the front a campaign to woo farmers and downtrodden sections of the society. Also, the fact that the Bill has been moved in the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority, is also significant.

In the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, Patel has identified Suarashtra and Kutch in Gujarat, several parts of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha as frequently affected by drought conditions.

He recommends that a welfare fund should be set up for the farmers of arid and desert areas as they face frequent drought conditions and lose their crops, leading to indebtedness and distress.

The Bill seeks to provide for "protective measures and special facilities for the farmers of arid, desert and drought prone areas, who are often affected by natural calamities causing loss of crops, livestock, making them vulnerable to indebtedness, disease and physical infirmities, exploitation of money lenders."

Kashyap said, "While the Presidential recommendation for private members' Bills that involve expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India is necessary, such Bills, if passed by both the Houses, might still not become law if the President withholds his assent to the Bill."

First Published: Apr 23 2016 | 11:23 PM IST

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