Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Farm bills tabled in Rajya Sabha amid protests in Punjab, Haryana

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Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar moved two agriculture sector Bills in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday.

These Bills are — 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. Both of them were passed by the Lower House with a voice vote a couple of days back. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 permits the electronic trading of farmers’ produce and allows the setting up transaction platforms for facilitating direct online buying and selling of farm products.

The Delhi Police is on alert with respect to the farmers’ protests that are taking place in the neighboring states of the national capital over Bills on agriculture sector reforms, the Delhi Police informed on Sunday. Forces have been deployed near the Ashok Nagar-Ghazipur area, as well as the Delhi-Haryana border. On Saturday, Farmers and Arhtiyas (commission agents) in Rohtak staged a protest and raised slogans against the Centre’s reforms. They said that their outcry would continue till the three bills were taken back.

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The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 provides for a farming agreement prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce. A guaranteed price to be paid for the purchase of farming produce will be mentioned in such agreements.

Hailing the passage of the bills, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had described this proposed legislation as historic and said that they will rid farmers and the farm sector of middlemen and other bottlenecks. The Prime Minister further stated that these agrarian reforms will open new doors for farmers to sell their produce, which will fetch them more profit for their produce.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday asked Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal and Lok Sabha MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal ten questions pertaining to the new agriculture bills.

Responding to the no-holds-barred attack launched by both Sukhbir Badal and Harsimrat Badal, the Chief Minister alleged the duo had been “fabricating lies on the whole issue just to cover up their muddied faces, which had been completely exposed”.

Singh asked the Badals if any one of them had even called the bills anti-farmer when they were presented in the Lok Sabha. “Was Harsimrat not part of the Union Cabinet when the ordinances were introduced without consulting any of the stakeholders, considering that one of the reasons cited by her for her resignation was that the Centre failed to address her demand for discussions with these stakeholders?” he asked.

The Chief Minister asked whether Harsimrat Badal, before her resignation, told the farmers that she was trying to persuade the central government to address their concerns.

“Why does she continue to describe the concerns as those of the farmers and not her own if she is truly concerned about the destructive impact of the new laws on them? Does this mean she herself still believes those atrocious legislations to be pro-farmer, contrary to what she is trying to falsely project to the farmers?” he said.

Singh questioned, “Why is SAD still part of the NDA given that, by Harsimrat’s own admission, the BJP-led government failed to address the farmers’ concerns she put before them?”

The Chief Minister asked the SAD whether it named even one pro-farmer initiative that the party persuaded the BJP-led government at the Centre to take over the past six years.

“Did Sukhbir not state clearly and unambiguously at the all-party meeting convened by me on the issue that the Ordinances were not anti-farmer and would actually benefit the farmers?”, he said.

Singh asked whether Harsimrat Badal or Sukhbir Badal was present in any of the meetings of the high-powered committee, “on which you are making baseless claims of my government’s stand and responses?”

“Why have you and your party chosen to deliberately and maliciously ignore the key portions relating to agriculture in the Congress party’s Lok Sabha manifesto of 2019 and the Punjab Congress manifesto of 2017?” he questioned further.

In his tenth question, Singh*said, “Do you really believe that by repeating your lies often enough you will be able to make them sound like truth and befool the farmers, whose lives your party was directly responsible for destroying through 10 years of your misrule in Punjab?”

The Chief Minister said he was sure that the Akalis and the Badals, could offer no reasonable explanation or rational answer to any of these questions. The people of Punjab, especially the farmers, will not forgive them, he added.

“The Ordinances, which you had been shamefacedly supporting all through till you decided to back off under political compulsions out of fear of losing your farmer vote-bank, were never discussed or even mentioned at the high-powered meetings — a fact on which your coalition partners either deliberately kept in the dark or which you chose consciously to ignore in your own petty interest,” he told the Badals.

The Chief Minister asserted that the SAD’s claims of standing shoulder to shoulder with the farmers were “hollow and false” as long as they continued to lie on the subject and remained a part of the “anti-farmer central government”.

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