New Delhi: In a dramatic turn of events, followed by a series of protests against three contentious farmer ordinances proposed by the Centre in the Parliament this week, Union Minister and Punjab leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Thursday took an exit from the Union Cabinet as the government failed to address ‘the apprehensions of farmers’. Also Read - Hoshiarpur Rape: Gandhis Can't See Atrocities Against Women in States Where Congress is in Power, Says BJP
“Thousands of farmers are on the streets. I did not want to be part of the government that got the bills passed in the House without addressing the apprehensions of farmers, that is why I resigned,” Badal told reporters after submitting her resignation. Also Read - Punjab CM Amarinder Singh's Son Summoned By Enforcement Directorate
Notably, the Lok Sabha passed Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, today. The House had already passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill on Tuesday. Also Read - Maharashtra Govt Announces Rs 10,000 Crore Package For Rain-Affected Parts of State
While Congress MPs staged a protest in the Parliament premises all day, the grand old party and BJP’s long time ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) are not the only ones angry over the government’s decision.
Why are farmers protesting against bills made for them?
“I assure the farmers that the system of MSP (Minimum Support Price) and government procurement will remain. The bills will provide opportunities to the farmers and empower them in the true sense,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted in Hindi after farmer agitations launched in different parts of the country.
Farmers across the country are apprehensive that if the new bills become law, they will not get the minimum support price (MSP) they have been demanding from the government for months, as the proposed legislation does not specify any method od determining the “guaranteed price” farmers will get. However, their objections are mostly related to the provisions under the first ordinance, that talks about “trade area”, “trader”, “dispute resolution” and “market fee”.
Why is the Opposition protesting?
Opposition parties, including TMC, Congress, SAD, AAP, DMK and BSP, opposed the agriculture sector reform bills, saying they were “anti-farmer” and against the interests of small and marginal farmers.
Kalyan Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress said in the Lower House his party strongly opposes them and if the “draconian” bills are passed, they will adversely affect 60 per cent people of the country who are poor and marginal farmers and farm labourers.
Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant welcomed the bills but sought more clarification from the government over certain aspects. He asked the Centre to ensure that any agreement between farmers and private parties makes it clear that farm produce will be sold at a price higher than the MSP.
Earlier today, AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also rejected the bill and urged the Centre should withdraw them. “The AAP will vote against them in Parliament,” he tweeted in Hindi.
What is the government’s defence?
The Centre has been firm on the ground that the new ordinances will be beneficial to not only farmers but also traders and consumers.
“It will lead to helping farmers realise a better price. This is very forward-looking legislation and it is a win-win situation for all farmers, consumers and entrepreneurs,” noted Ramesh Chand, member of NITI Aayog.
The BJP said that the ongoing protests were not farmers’ agitation but agitations sponsored by the opposition Congress. “After these bills become Acts, farmers will be free to sell their products at their place of choice and buyers and there will be no levy, no cess,” said BJP’s Jagdambika Pal.
The YSR Congress and Janata Dal (United) have supported the bill in the Parliament.