On the first day of the winter session, as expected, the Government had listed the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 for taking back the three contentious farm laws — Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — but it was not clear that any debate would be allowed before the repeal.
Opposition leaders had expressed apprehension even before the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) meetings of both Houses that the Government would want to clear the Bill without discussion. No consensus on a discussion was reached in the BAC meeting.
In the Lok Sabha, which was adjourned till 12 noon after it convened due to ongoing protests by the Opposition on farm Bill related issues, the Repeal Bill was taken up as soon as the House reconvened.
Opposition MPs from the DMK and the Trinamool were in the Well when Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar stood to introduce the Bill, demanding that discussion be allowed. Congress MPs were in their seats but they too raised the demand for a discussion.
Speaker Om Birla said unless the House was in order he would not allow a discussion.
“I will allow the discussion only when the House is in order,” he repeatedly said and asked Mr. Tomar to proceed first with introducing and then taking up the Bill for consideration and passing.
Leader of the Congress Legislature Party in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Choudhary intervened stating that in the past, six Acts had been repealed since 2014, and discussion had been allowed for the same and that this Bill too should come up for debate.
“The word here is consideration and passing, and we ask that the bill be taken up for consideration by the House before passing,” he said.
Speaker Om Birla, however, said no discussion could take place with parliamentarians crowding the Well of the House.
“This is not the way one can debate bills,” he said. The Bill was then passed by voice vote and the House adjourned till 2 p.m.
In Rajya Sabha, after two adjournments in the first half of the day, the House met at 2 p.m. to repeal the laws.
The opposition parties again protested as the government moved the bill, without offering a debate on the issue.
Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge was given a brief opportunity to speak on the issue. Mr Kharge said everyone in the house welcomed the repeal of the bills and congratulated the government for the belated wisdom on withdrawing the bills. But the minute he started talking about the deaths 750 farmers in the year long agitation, Deputy Chairman Harivansh who was in chair, told him that his time was up.
“The farmers still continue to sit in protest. Many of their demands still remain unmet. We also need to debate the events of Lakhimpur Kheri,” Mr. Kharge said.
As the Bill was passed without debate, opposition MPs rose in protest. TMC MPs Nadimul Haque and Dola Sen walked into the well of the house. As soon as Ms. Sen approached the chair, Parliament security officials trooped in.
Speaking outside Parliament, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, “The manner in which the government passed the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 proves that the government was wrong and was scared of a discussion.”
Senior Congress leaders pointed out that at least 17 acts repealed by the current government from 2014 onwards had been repealed after due discussion, and this exception of no debate therefore indicated the government's pusillanimity in discussing issues related to farmers in the Houses of Parliament.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi, however, said that since Prime Minister Modi had already stated that the Bills were being repealed acknowledging the wishes of a certain section of farmers and the opposition, there was little need for debate.
“What is your intention? Prime Minister in his large heartedness agreed that the Bills be repealed, why are you delaying it? The intention of the government was clear that we wanted to clear the Bill in both Houses, so what exactly is the Opposition’s intentions in creating a din?" he said.