The farm bills - The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 were passed in Rajya Sabha on Sunday, by voice vote, despite massive protest by opposition and farmers. The bills were cleared amid mayhem in Rajya Sabha with several MPs taking to the well of the House and raising anti-government slogans.
The Centre on Sunday tabled the controversial farm bills - the Farmers' and Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 in Rajya Sabha.
Passing the bill, Union minister of agriculture and farmer welfare Narendra Singh Tomar said that the 'historic' bills will bring a positive change in the lives of the farmers.
The three bills were passed in the Lok Sabha on Thursday amid farmer protests across the country and opposition walk-outs. However, the NDA, along with parties like the Biju Janata Dal and the YSR Congress, is expected to have the advantage during voting, with over 105 votes in the Upper House which has a current strength of 243, reported NDTV. The BJP has 86 members.
However, when the bill was introduced in the Lower House, it led to the exit of BJP's long-time ally Shiromani Akali Dal from the government. The bills have stirred massive protests among farmers in agriculture-dependent states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The Opposition parties have termed the bills as 'anti-farmer'. Congress on Sunday said that it won't sign on the 'death warrant'. On the other hand, Trinamool Congress questioned how many BJP MPs had gained a thorough understanding of the three bills.
The farmers have raised concerns as the bills eliminate the Minimum Support Price. Tomar, however, said the bills have nothing to do with the minimum support price. "I want to assure everyone through the House that these bills have nothing to do with the MSP. MSP will continue as before. I had said this in the Lok Sabha as well and PM Modi himself has assured that the MSP will not be tampered with."
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which has previously supported the government in many of its decisions, has asked its seven members to vote against the bills. TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao has termed these legislations as "sugar-coated pills" that will do a lot of injustice to the farm sector in the country, reported the media.
Opposing the bills, CPI(M) MP K K Ragesh said that the government is throwing the farmers at the mercy of our corporates, as they will be prone to sell their produce according to the dictates of the corporates, and therefore, urged the government to reconsider their decision. "This is not the farmers' but corporates' freedom," Ragesh was quoted by the media.
Following, Ragesh, TMC's Derek O'Brien and DMK's T Siva moved an amendment to send the two farms Bills to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha.
O'Brien, sharing his views on the bill, questioned how qualified were the members of the party to speak on the bills and how many of them actually read it.
"The PM said the opposition is trying to mislead the farmers. You promised to double the farmers' income by 2020. At current rates, it won't happen before 2028. Your credibility is low to make promises. In Bengal, farmers' income has doubled from ₹90,000. Don't bring the debate down to MSPs, we are opposing everything in the bill. It does not give the Centre the rights to implement in the states. States will not be able to ensure farmers' interests. Who are you going to fool here? For the consumers too, what is the protection? These bills will have to be discussed and debated. We are the only country in the world who doesn't need to discuss bills before passing it," The Indian Express quoted O'Brien as.
On similar lines, Punjab Congress MP Punjab Partap Singh Bajwa termed the farm bills as 'ill-conceived' and 'ill-timed' and said that the party won't sign on the death warrant of farmers. He questioned the need of bringing this bill at the time when the country is fighting a pandemic and its neighbour along the Line of Actual Control.
He also questioned if Tomar had spoken to the stakeholders and not just to his alliance partners. Bajwa suggested, in order to test the bills' efficacy, it should be implemented in one state, starting from Gujarat. If it attains success, it can be followed by others.
Samajwadi Party MP from Uttar Pradesh Ram Gopal Yadav also questioned if the ruling party consulted any farmer associations regarding this. "You didn't consult anyone before bringing these ordinances amid the pandemic. No son of a farmer will prepare such a bill. Like BSNL is being suffocated by Jio, now farmers too will have to go through the same ordeal. How will farmers compete with big companies."
Farmers contribute at least 20 per cent to the total GDP of the country, and now will be made slaves by these bills and make them a commodity, DMK MP TKS Elangovan told the Upper House. The opposition also alleged that the situation seemed similar as it was during the East India Company.
In response to the opposition, Rajasthan BJP MP, Bhupendra Yadav said that they ruled the country for years but still failed to reduce the ratio between rural and urban income. Therefore, the three agriculture bills ensure justice to farmers, which they have been deprived of for the last 70 years. It will also empower the farmers digitally and the intention is to strengthen trade.
The bills are being fiercely opposed by the farmers across the country, who argued that the bills will eliminate minimum support price and bring about corporate control. The protests are ongoing in parts of Haryana and Punjab. Police have been deployed at Sadopur border in Ambala, in view of farmers' protest against the bills.