Oppn parties slam farm bills as ‘death warrant’ of farmers; BJP accuses them of misleading

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The bills have been brought with an “intention of ending the MSP operations”, says Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa

NEW DELHI, Sept 20 (PTI): The Opposition led by the Congress in Rajya Sabha on Sunday criticised the farm bills, saying they will not sign on the “death warrant” of farmers, and demanded that they be sent to the Select Committee for scrutiny, while the ruling BJP accused these parties of misleading the farmers.

The opposition charged that the two bills are aimed at benefitting big corporates and ending the minimum price based procurement by the government, though the Centre has maintained that the MSP system will continue.

The Upper House on Sunday took up the discussion on The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill that have already been passed by Lok Sabha.

K K Ragesh (CPI-M), Derek O’Brien (TMC), Trichi Siva (DMK) and K C Venugopal (Congress) moved resolutions for sending the two bills to a select committee of the House for consideration before they are taken up for passage.

Initiating the discussion on the two bills, Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa slammed them as “ill-conceived and ill-timed” and said his party “completely rejects” them.

“We will not sign on death warrants of farmers,” he said.

He said the bills are against the spirit of cooperative federalism.

“We do not want any tinkering in APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) and the minimum support price (MSP),” he said, and wondered what was the need to bring these bills during the Covid-19 crisis.

Referring to protests by farmers in some states, Bajwa said: “Those whom you want to benefit are on the streets”. Bajwa said the bills have been brought with an “intention of ending the MSP (minimum support price) operations”.

“Slowly, the government will come out of this and then Ambani, Adani and big corporate houses will enter (market),” he alleged. He said the two bills are against the economic interest of Punjab, which has contributed a lot in making India self-sufficient in foodgrain production.

Defending the two Bills, Bhupender Yadav of the BJP charged that the Congress was doing politics over the issue and misleading farmers. He asked the Congress why the farmers’ income did not increase in the last 60-70 years even as the country became self-sufficient in farm production.

These two important bills are the biggest agriculture reform in the country and will give justice to farmers by increasing their income, Yadav said. He said the new age agriculture bills will boost processing, marketing and exports of farm produce.

Yadav said a report of the working group of agriculture production in 2010 suggested similar reforms. “Today, you (Congress) are doing politics. You are doing injustice with farmers because of politics,” he said. However, he said the country and farmers are understanding the “politics” of the Congress.

“Opposition should stop doing politics and also misleading farmers,” he said.

“We are not taking away the land of farmers,” he said, and added that the two bills are only meant to harness the huge potential of the agriculture sector. TMC leader Derek O’Brien demanded that the Bills should be sent to a select committee.

“These bills need to be debated in Parliament. You have the numbers to have your way and we have the right to have our say and to keep you on track of Parliamentary democracy.

“This is a very very dangerous trend we are following. Select committee is not a hand break…it is there to contribute. I am going to move select committee,” he said.

“The PM said the opposition is trying to mislead the farmers. Let us see what credibility you have to make these speeches. You promised to double farmers’ income by 2022. At the current rate, the farmer incomes would not double till 2028,” he said.

Noting that the government promised two crore jobs every year, he said: “Now you have the highest unemployment.”

The Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav said there seems to be some compulsion that the ruling party does not want to discuss the bills and is in a hurry to pass them.

“It appears that this bill has not been drafted by you. A son of a farmer cannot draft such a bill. When you go back to your native place, the youths would ask you what were you doing when our death warrants were being issued in Parliament,” he asked. Tiruchi Siva (DMK) alleged the government’s intention was to “sell the farmers” and make them dependent.

Siva claimed the government said it was an attempt to save farmers from the clutches of traders but in fact it was to send them into the clutches of corporates, as he questioned the government’s “sudden affection” towards farmers.

Shaktisingh Gohil (Cong) said farmers will be “ruined” by these bills and demanded to know how the government will convince the masses when it could not convince its Cabinet colleague.

He demanded sending it to a Select Committee. Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, who took oath as a member of the Upper House on Sunday, suggested forming a permanent commission to advise the government on MSP and other issues.

Ahmed Patel (Cong) said UPA’s NYAY (Nyuntam Aay Yojana) scheme has promised an income of Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent households in India.

Patel claimed that the previous government has added 70 per cent people in the National Food Security Act but the present government reduced it to 20 per cent. Akhilesh Prasad Singh (Cong) and Dola Sen ( Trinamool Congress) termed the Bills anti-farmers. The two bills were later passed by the House amid protests by the opposition members.

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