On September 20, Rajya Sabha passed by voice vote the Farmers’ and Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 amid protest by Opposition MPs. The stated objective of passing of these two farm bills is giving marketing freedom to farmers. These two bills had already been passed by Lok Sabha. The opposition leaders, however, saw these two bills as harming farmers’ interests. Rajya Sabha witnessed uproarious scenes when some opposition members led by the TMC climbed on to the chairman’s podium shouting slogans. Those shouting slogans against passing of these bills included the leaders from TMC, Congress and Left. The opposition leaders created ruckus after Deputy Chairman Harivansh did not consider their demand for a division of votes on a resolution to send the two bills to a select committee. TMC leader Derek O’Brien had demanded that the Bills should be send to a select committee.
The ruling party’s stand
Bhupender Yadav of the BJP described these two important bills as the biggest agriculture reform in the country which will give justice to farmers by increasing their income. He said that food processing level is still very low in India and the two agriculture bills will boost processing, marketing, and exports of farm produces. He reminded that reforms suggested in these acts are in line with a report of working group of agriculture production in 2010. He also charged that the Congress was doing politics over this issue and misleading farmers and asked the Congress why the farmers’ income did not increase in the last 60-70 years even as the country become self-sufficient in farm production. He also highlighted various schemes and programmes launched by the prime minister in the last six years for the growth of the agriculture and allied sectors. He added that the government will continue to purchase crops at the minimum support price (MSP), which will prove the “falsehood” spread by the Congress. He also reminded that the contract farming already exist in many states including Punjab and Haryana. He tried to clarify that the government is not allowing taking away land of farmers, but the two bills are only meant to harness the huge potential of the agriculture sector.
The stand of opposition parties
TMC leader said that these e bills need to be debated in Parliament and simply because the government has numbers to have its way, the opposition will not dither to protest and they have the right to have their say and to keep you on track of Parliamentary democracy. Arguing to take this bill to a select committee he said, “This is very very dangerous trend we are following. Select committee is not a hand break…it is there to contribute. I am going to move select committee.” The TMC leader said the States have not been consulted on these Bills and questioned the government’s tall promises and its credibility.
Opposition parties led by the Congress criticised the farm bills and said that they will not sign on the “death warrant” of farmers. The opposition charged that the two bills are aimed at benefitting big corporates and ending the minimum price based procurement by the government. K K Ragesh (CPI-M), Derek O’Brien (TMC), Trichi Siva (DMK) and K C Venugopal (Congress) moved resolutions for sending the two bills to a select committee of the House for consideration before they are taken up for passage. Initiating the discussion on these two bills, Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa, who hails from Punjab, described the proposed laws as “ill-conceived and ill-timed” and said his party “completely rejects” them. He said the bills are against land owners across the country, especially those of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh. He said that agriculture being a state subject, not considering the views of state leaders are against the federal cooperative spirit. He opposed any tinkering in APMC and the minimum support price (MSP). He said the bills have been brought with an “intention of ending the MSP (minimum support price) operations”. He alleged that slowly the government will come out of this and then Ambani, Adani and big corporate houses will enter (market). He also wondered as to why these bills were brought during COVID-19. He made a reference to farmers protest against these bills. The Congress leader said that the BJP’s alliance partner Akali Dal has already opposed the Bills and Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Union Cabinet.
The Congress leader said the two bills are against the economic interest of Punjab, which has contributed a lot in making India self-sufficient in foodgrain production.
Terming the bills “anti-agriculture black laws”, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also asked how MSP will be ensured with the ending of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) or farmers’ market. He asked why there is no guarantee on MSP. He vehemently criticized the government for passing two anti farmer bills. He said, “Modi ji is making farmers ‘slaves’ of capitalists, the country will not allow this to succeed.” The former Congress chief tweeted in Hindi with the hashtag ‘Kisan Virodhi (anti-farmer) Narendra Modi’. The TMC leader said that although the PM promised to double farmers’ income by 2022. At current rate, the farmer incomes would not double till 2028.