Parliament yesterday passed new bills the government says will make it easier for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers, despite growing protest from opposition parties and a long-time ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the new laws will reform antiquated laws and remove middlemen from agriculture trade, allowing farmers to sell to institutional buyers and large retailers like Walmart.
The bills also make contract farming easier by providing a new set of rules.
But food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the alliance party Akali Dal resigned on Thursday in protest calling the bills “anti-farmer”, and the opposition parties have said farmers’ bargaining power will be diminished by allowing retailers to have tighter control over them.
Yesterday, some opposition lawmakers raised slogans, tore documents and tried to grab Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu’s microphone, before two controversial bills were passed by a voice vote.
“The passage of both the bills in parliament is indeed a landmark day for Indian agriculture,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter.
But Badal whose party has a strong base in the northern state of Punjab believes the bills will increase farmer suffering in the breadbasket state.
Her party believes the laws will destroy wholesale markets which ensure fair and timely payments to farmers, weaken the state’s farmers and the overall state economy.
Many farmer organisations have in recent days held street protests in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana.
Yesterday, the main opposition Congress party criticised the government.
“We will make sure that the government will have to step down on its knees before the farming community of this country,” said Randeep Surjewala, a party spokesman.
“It will be farmers one side and big businesses on the other side, how will they fight?,” he added.
However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to assure the opposition on minimum support price (MSP) and allay the fears of the farmers.
“I said it earlier and I say it once again: system of MSP will remain. Government procurement will continue,” Modi tweeted.
“We are here to serve our farmers. We will do everything possible to support them and ensure a better life for their coming generations.”
Modi said the Indian farming system needed the latest technology.
“Our agriculture sector is in desperate need of the latest technology that assists the industrious farmers. Now, with the passage of the bills, our farmers will have easier access to futuristic technology that will boost production and yield better results. This is a welcome step.”
But Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said his government will take the BJP and its allies, including the Akali Dal, to court over the new “unconstitutional, undemocratic and anti-farmer laws.”
“We will move the courts and fight the draconian legislations as soon as they get the presidential nod and become the law of the land,” he said, expressing shock at the way the central government forced the bills through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.
Singh said his government will not allow the central government, of which the Akali Dal continues to “shamelessly” be a part, to trample the rights and interests of the farmers.
“We stand with the farmers and will do whatever it takes to protect their interests,” he declared.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
Trump boosted by Supreme Court confirmation days from US election
US to announce plan for Medicare, Medicaid to cover early Covid-19 vaccine
‘Not’ giving up on Covid fight, insists president
Trump, Biden in final full week of campaigning as virus looms large
Trump, Biden scramble to make closing arguments
Qatar provides medical aid to Bolivia
Airlines suffering from business class blues in age of Covid
'Murder hornet' nest vacuumed out of tree in Washington
As Covid-19 hits swing states, Biden and Trump show sharp contrast