Bills sparked protests; Modi blamed 'misinformation campaign'
Farmers fear the legislation would keep them from availing a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce. Intense protests have been staged, particularly in the states of Punjab and Haryana, in opposition to the bill. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured that the MSP system will remain intact. He blamed a "misinformation" campaign against the bills for the protests.
The Rajya Sabha on Sunday passed the controversial farm bills amid protests by the Opposition. The Upper House has now been adjourned until 9 am on Monday. The controversial bills had faced intense protests by farmers, the community they seek to benefit. Shortly before the bills had passed, Opposition MPs had raised slogans in the well of the house, causing chaos.
The Farmers' and Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, were cleared by voice vote. During the proceedings, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien had entered the well and showed the house rule book to RS Deputy Chairman Harivansh. Thereafter, several Opposition MPs entered the well and raised slogans.
Earlier in the day, there was an uproar among Congress MPs in the Rajya Sabha after YSR Congress Party MP said, "There is no reason for Congress to oppose these bills. Congress is a party of middlemen 'dalals.'"
The concerned bills are The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020. The bills—passed in the Lok Sabha earlier this week—will replace ordinances that came into force after being cleared by the Cabinet and receiving Presidential assent on June 5.
Shiv Sena MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut asked if the government can ensure that farmers' incomes will double with these new reforms and no farmer will die by suicide. "A special session should be called to discuss these bills," he had said. Further, Raut asked, "If it (scrapping of MSP) is just a rumor, then why did a Union Minister resign over it?".
Earlier, reports had said that the Shiv Sena's three MPs will support the bills in the Rajya Sabha. However, the Sena's relationship with the ruling BJP has been sour for about a year, since the former formed a tripartite alliance with the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra; defeating the saffron party in the state Assembly elections.
The BJP-led Centre had previously assured that the bills will clear the Parliament, despite the protests, but the Congress-led Opposition had opposed them vehemently, terming them a "death warrant" for farmers. The BJP-led NDA has 105 seats in the Rajya Sabha. However, reports had said the Opposition could possibly rake up over 100 votes against the bills in the 243-member house.
"The Congress party opposes these ill-conceived and ill-timed bills," Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa had said in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday, "We will not sign on this death warrant of farmers." He had said, "Agriculture and markets are State subjects and these Bills are against the spirit of the federal cooperative. We do not want APMC and MSP to be tinkered."
"The PM should explain why there's a hurry to pass the bills amid a pandemic," asked HD Devegowda, a former PM and JD(S) MP. Devegowda had said, "He should explain what would farm bills do for the farming community in the short and the long term, and how will they help in achieving the government's goal of doubling farmers' incomes."