The House also negated the oppositions’ amendments to send the Bills to the Select Committee.
When the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar was replying to the discussion at 1 PM, Deputy Chairman Harivansh sought the House consent to extend the proceedings till the Minister’s reply. On it, members from Congress, TMC, Left, DMK and Aam Aadmi Party demanded that the House should be adjourned and the reply should be taken up tomorrow. However, the Deputy Chairman asked the Minister to continue with his reply. This prompted opposition members to troop into the well raising slogans against the government.
Members from Congress, Left, TMC, AAP, RJD, DMK and others continued with their protest. Some other opposition members were also on their feet. During this, the House witnessed an unruly scene with some opposition members approaching the Chair leading to disruption in the proceeding.
The Deputy Chairman repeatedly asked the agitating members to go back to their seats and order in the House but in vain. Amid pandemonium, the Deputy Chairman adjourned the House for ten minutes till 1.41 PM. When the House met again, the scene was no different and the Chair guarded by marshals continued the proceedings and the two Bills were passed with voice vote.
Speaking on the Bills, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar said that the government has taken several steps for doubling the income of farmers after the consultations with the famers and States. He said, significant increases have been done in the MSP of the agricultural produce in the last six years. In addition, one lakh crore Agricultural Infrastructure Fund has been launched for the development of the farming sector.
Mr. Tomar termed the legislations historic adding that they will bring revolutionary changes in the lives of the farmers. He said earlier the farmers were not free to sell their produce to any buyers and Agricultural Produce Market Committees, APMC are not functioning in a transparent manner.
The Minister said, these Bills give the freedom to the farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country as per the price determined between the seller and buyers. He said, these Bills will ensure better prices for the farmers’ produce. He refuted the opposition’s claim that the Bills are related to Minimum Support Price clarifying that MSP will be continued as per the earlier practice.
The two Bills aim at increasing the availability of buyers for farmers’ produce by allowing them to trade freely without any license or stock limit resulting in better prices for their produce. They will replace two ordinances promulgated by the Central Government in June this year.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of APMC markets. As per the Bill, State governments are prohibited from levying any market fee, cess or levy outside APMC areas.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill creates a framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production of any farm produce.
Initiating the discussion, Pratap Singh Bajwa of Congress described the Bills as ill-conceived saying that his party rejects the legislation. He said, the Bills are against the farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh. He said, agriculture and farming are the State subjects and the Centre is encroaching in the territory of the States. Another party MP Ahmed Patel said that Congress made several provisions for the welfare of farmers while farming the party manifesto. He alleged that BJP ignored these provisions while highlighting the fact that Congress has made provisions to curtail the APMC.
Derek O’Brien of TMC also opposed the Bills saying that these have to be discussed and scrutinized by the Select Committee. Ram Gopal Yadav of Samajwadi Party termed the Bills as anti-farmer. He accused the government of bringing them in a hurry without proper consultations. Amar Patnaik of BJD also there are several apprehensions among the farmers about the provisions of these Bills and these must be sent to the Select Committee.
Echoing a similar view, Naresh Gujral of Akali Dal also alleged that Bills are in the interest of the corporate. K. K. Ragesh of CPI(M) also criticized the Bills and accused the government of keeping the interest of corporates above the farmers. K. Keshav Rao of TRS alleged that the Bills are an assault on the States’ rights. He said, these legislations will turn farmers into landless laborers. Tiruchi Siva of DMK also attacked the government over the legislation.
Praful Patel of NCP stressed on the need for more consultations with the stakeholders. Sanjay Rout of Shiv Sena also raised fingers on the provisions of the Bills. BSP MP Satish Chandra Mishra said the farmers are agitated on the issue of MSP and the government should clarify on this issue. Sanjay Singh of AAP expressed his opinion against the Bills.
On the other hand, Bhupendra Yadav of BJP said that these legislations are the biggest agricultural reforms in the last 70 years. He said these reforms are needed, if the country wants to become self-reliant. He accused the Congress for playing politics in this issue by restricting the development of the farmers. He wondered, how Congress is opposing as during the UPA regime a working group on Agriculture had advocated for reforms in APMC and agri-marketing sector. Another Party MP Surendra Singh Nagar also listed out the benefits of the Bills. Some other members also participated in the discussion.
Earlier, the members from the Congress, Left, TMC and others moved a resolution disapproving the Bills. CPI(M) MP K.K. Ragesh demanded the withdrawal of the Bills alleging that it is in the favor of corporate as bargaining power will be with them not with the farmers. He said, farmers and their unions are protesting across the country against these Bills and the government should reconsider its decisions. Mr. Ragesh along with Tiruchi Siva of DMK, Derek O’Brien of TMC and K.C. Venugopal of Congress also moved amendments to send the Bill to the Select Committee.