New Delhi, September 20: The Rajya Sabha today passed the two agriculture-related Farm Bills amid protests by the Opposition and farmers, marching to Delhi in protest.
The Upper House gave the nod to 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, as Opposition MPs continued to shout slogans. Some lawmakers even staged a walkout in protest.
Earlier, replying to the debate on the Farm Bills, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar assured the House that the Minimum Support Price regime will not be scrapped. Some of the amendments moved by the opposition lawmakers were not pressed for voting while those pressed for voting were negated.
The Opposition also demanded that the Farm Bills be sent to the Select committee of the Upper House but it was not accepted by the government.
Farmers’ march in protest
Farmers marched towards the national capital to voice their discontent over the contentious agri Bills, despite police being in place on both sides of the borders.
In Haryana, farmers blocked roads to protest the new Farm Bills.
Many farmers tried to block roads in Ambala. National Highway 344 which is better known as Ambala-Roorkee national highway is blocked.
With the matter being politically sensitive, most political parties sided with the farmers.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Harsimrat Kaur resigned from the cabinet. Shahabad MLA of Jannayak Janta Party, an ally of the BJP in Haryana, was spotted at a protest site.
Organisations like Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) are already threatening to march to the capital where the Parliament is in session.
Delhi Police has been put on alert mode, with increased patrol and barricades in border areas with Haryana as well as in Ghazipur.
Punjab Youth Congress and farmers have hit the Delhi-Chandigarh national highway to take part in a tractor rally headed to Delhi.
“We have set up border pickets as a precautionary measure on the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. Our teams are on alert,” deputy commissioner of Police (East) Jasmeet Singh said.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President J.P. Nadda both have clarified that the MSP is not going anywhere, farmers’ unions believe the Bills will phase out the MSP and the traditional grain market system. They also claim it to be against the small farmers, something the Centre dismisses.
But, there are many commission agents or middlemen that the Centre says will be rooted out, particularly in Punjab who are worried of being rendered jobless. A study says, there are roughly 28,000 registered commission agents, who too are concerned of going jobless.
The two Farm Bills
While giving a historic boost to rural India, three ordinances were promulgated on June 5, 2020 for the benefit of farmers and to transform the agriculture sector. These ordinances were: The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 to promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade in agriculture produce; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 to engage with processors, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers, exporters; and Amendment to the Essential Commodities Act to liberalise regulatory environment for farmers.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 seeks to provide a new ecosystem in which farmers and traders, as per the government, will enjoy freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of their produce and facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter- and intra-state trade and commerce.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, aims to provide a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers.
MSP has been one of the concerns of many farmers, irrespective of the Centre’s assurance. Many feel farmers will either cease to get the benefit of it or private players may exploit them.
Modi tries to assure farmers
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday again sought to assure the opposition on minimum support price (MSP) and to allay the fears of farmers after the two Farm Bills were passed by Parliament with the Rajya Sabha giving its nod.
“We are here to serve our farmers. We will do everything possible to support them and ensure a better life for their coming generations,” he tweeted.
Massive protests inside House for Farm Bills
The Rajya Sabha saw a massive ruckus as the government sought to clear the farm Bills and TMC MP Derek O’Brien tore up the documents.
An aggressive O’Brien, approached the Chair and tore the documents in front of him calling the Bill “Kala Kanoon”.
Despite repeated requests, many Opposition parties reached the well of the house to agitate.
Following the animated and aggressive protests, the House was briefly adjourned.