Farm unions pushed back on the reasons and objects of the farm laws repeal bill on Monday, refuting the Government’s claims on farmers’ choices, electronic trading, prior consultations and the scope of protests. Union leaders also asked why the repeal bill was pushed through without any discussion in Parliament of their other demands, including minimum support prices (MSP) for crops.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, however, said that there was no need for a discussion on the repeal , given that both the ruling and Opposition parties were unanimous in their support for the repeal. He also blamed Opposition parties for preventing a discussion in the Lok Sabha by disrupting proceedings, noting that the Speaker Om Birla repeatedly told Opposition MPs that a discussion could be held if they returned to their seats. The repeal was evidence that the Prime Minister kept his word to farmers, added Mr. Tomar.
“The Statement of Objects and Reasons accompanying the repeal Bill cannot be farther from the truth,” said the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a platform of farm unions, noting that most State APMC Acts already give farmers the freedom to sell their produce to any buyer at any place of their choice. “Such a freedom was not given for the first time by the Modi Government as is being claimed. Further, any so-called freedom without protection from exploitation is meaningless.”
With regard to claims in the Statement that the farm laws created a facilitative framework for electronic trading to improve transparency and price discovery, and created an ecosystem for traders and processors to engage with stakeholders, the All India Kisan Sabha alleged that the laws did not include necessary safeguards to prevent unbridled profiteering and monopoly by corporates through these developments.
“The million dollar question is, this is engagement for the sake of which stake holder? To safeguard the interests of the farmers or the corporate entities?” asked AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah.
SKM leaders also slammed the Centre for not admitting that the laws were enacted in an unconstitutional manner, without prior consultations with farmers or State Governments. “In a democracy, opportunistic consultations with industry-sponsored farm unions is not the way forward, and there have to be serious deliberative democratic processes adopted,” said the SKM statement.
With regard to the MSP guarantee law, the SKM insisted that the necessary financial investments “are very much within the practical power of the Union Government, and will come back as revenues as soon as rural economy receives a boost from such a law.”