Parliament proceedings | Farm Bills are death warrants for farmers, say Opposition MPs

MPs flag threat to MSP guarantee and ‘unfettered liberalisation’ of agriculture under new Bills

Updated - November 28, 2021 01:15 pm IST

Published - September 20, 2020 01:19 pm IST - New Delhi

Hitting the streets: Members of various farmers'
organisations staging a protest in Patiala on Sunday.

Hitting the streets: Members of various farmers' organisations staging a protest in Patiala on Sunday.

The Opposition in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday said the two farm Bills brought by the government would lead to the corporate takeover of farming and Parliament passing them would be the death warrant of the farmers.

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 by the Upper House amid commotion. During the discussion on the Bills, the Opposition raised concerns that they would pave the way for ending the minimum support price guarantee.

Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa said the Bills were “ill-conceived and ill-timed” and that farmers in Punjab, his home State, and Haryana viewed them as attacks on their spirit. He said farmers had understood the Bills to be a way of doing away with MSPs and take-over of farmlands by corporations.

“We will not sign on this death warrant of farmers,” he said, saying the Congress opposed them.

All-India Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien questioned the government’s credibility and said the Bills raised an issue of federalism.

“You promised to double farmers’ income by 2022, but at the current rate it will not double till 2028...Your credibility is low to make promises,” he said.

AIADMK MP S.R. Balasubramoniyan said the Bills would lead to farmers being “reduced to farm workers” and big corporations taking over “large swathes of land”. DMK’s T.K.S Elangovan said the Bills were “an insult to farmers” and would lead to farmers “becoming slaves” and “commodities”. He said the Bills not only sought to replace ordinances, but to “repeal the promise of the government to implement the MS Swaminathan report”.

Samajwadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav questioned the timing of the Bills, which were introduced to replace ordinances promulgated during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“It seems there is some compulsion that the ruling party doesn’t want to discuss or debate, they are rushing with the Bills,” he said, adding that farmers would not be able to compete with big companies.

TRS MP K. Keshava Rao said the Bills were an attack on the rights of States and the Constitution. “If this is the new-age agriculture, then we are against it,” he said.

CPI(M) MP K.K. Ragesh said the Bills would lead to “unfettered liberalisation of Indian agriculture” and was an abdication of responsibility on the part of the government. While agreeing there were certain problems with the system of mandis that need to be rectified, he said the mandis offered farmers remunerative prices for their crops. He said the government should include a provision to declare the MSPs for all produce.

Referring to the upcoming Assembly elections in Bihar, RJD MP Manoj Kumar Jha said there had been a lot of attention on the State recently. He said the impact of the Bills seen in Punjab and Haryana would be seen in Bihar too. He said the farmers had “issued a whip” and that by passing the Bill, “you are writing the obituary of farmers”.

Naresh Gujral of the Shiromani Akali Dal, whose leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal quit as the Food Processing Minister this week over the introduction of the Bills, said: “There is a trust deficit or communication gap, which is why we are telling this party to send it [the Bills] to select committee.”

Amendments moved by Mr. O’Brien, Mr. Ragesh, DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and Congress MP K.C. Venogopal seeking referral of the Bills to a select committee were negatived by the House.

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