News

Rajya Sabha passes two farm Bills, Rajnath Singh-led ministerial team defends laws outside the House

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 20, 2020 Published on September 20, 2020

Ruckus erupts in the Rajya Sabha as Opposition MPs rush to the Well of House over agriculture related bills during the ongoing Monsoon Session at Parliament House in New Delhi, Sunday, September 20, 2020   -  PTI

I am a farmer and I am giving a solemn word that there is no design to scrap either MSP or APMC mechanism, says Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister

Amid pandemonium in the Rajya Sabha by Opposition MPs who stormed into the Well of the House and towards the Vice-Chairman’s chair, two contentious farm sector Bills were passed on Sunday.

The Government stuck to its guns with a high-power ministerial group, led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, mounting a counter-attack on the Opposition, which has moved a no-confidence motion against Rajya Sabha Vice-Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh.

 

The two Bills — the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill — were passed by the Rajya Sabha even as intense farmer protests racked Punjab and Haryana.

TMC MP Derek O'Brien attempts to tear the rule book as ruckus erupts in the Rajya Sabha   -  RSTV/PTI

The Government’s ally from Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), has withdrawn from the Union Cabinet its representative, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, in protest against the laws. The Bills were passed in the Lok Sabha last week.

In the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition demand for a division and vote on the Bills was rejected by the Deputy Chairman. More than 100 members belonging to the Opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against Singh to Chairman Venkaiah Naidu soon after the House was adjourned for the day.

Centre firm

The Government, however, refused to budge from its position with the Defence Minister condemning the Opposition’s behaviour in the Upper House as “shameful”. He also asserted that there is no ground for the perception that the Bills destroy the food protection mechanism and signal an end to the MSP (minimum support price) and APMC mechanisms.

 

“I am a farmer and have served as Agriculture Minister and I am giving a solemn word that there is no such design to scrap either MSP or APMC mechanism. Farmers are being misled for political benefits. When these two Bills come into effect, a farmer can sell his produce anywhere in the country. But instead of welcoming a step that helps the farmer, the MPs displayed condemnable behaviour towards the Vice-Chairman,” he said.

Allies, too, oppose

The Government was cornered in the House as two of its allies, the SAD and the AIADMK, opposed the Bills during the discussion. Together, the parties have 12 MPs. The TRS and the BJD, which have supported the Centre in the past, also voiced their opposition to the Bills.

AIADMK leader SR Balasubramoniyan told BusinessLine that though he criticised the Bill, he had no plans to vote against it. 

The ruckus started at around 1:10 pm when Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar began to replying to the debate. When the Deputy Chairman sought the House's permission to extend the day's sitting of the House till the Bills are disposed of, the Opposition started protests. They demanded that the House should be adjourned for the day as usually House gets adjourned at 1 PM. The Deputy Chairman objected to this and Opposition members stormed to the Well.

 

Soon afterwards, the Deputy Chairman started voting on the Bill. The demand for the division was rejected, and this irked the Opposition parties further. Members from almost all Opposition parties stormed to the Well and disrupted the proceedings. The mike in front of the Chair was damaged, and the House got adjourned for ten minutes. At 1:43 pm, it was reconvened, and the Bills were passed amid the din.

The Opposition members were heard saying that it was a "black day" in democracy. Congress leader Ahmed Patel told reporters after the session that the Centre "murdered democracy for Ambanis and Adanis". Congress MP Abhishek Singhvi said denying the opportunity to seek division is a denial of an MP's right and that was the reason why the Opposition moved a no-confidence motion. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury termed the incident as "outright murder of Indian Parliament". TMC leader Derek O'Brien said the Opposition was denied of its legitimate right of voting on the Bills.

Minister's reply

Replying to the debate, Tomar reiterated that the Minimum Support Price system would continue. He said the Narendra Modi Government had increased MSP for almost all crops significantly in the last six years. 

 

Earlier, while moving the Bill, the Minister said that the Opposition was trying to mislead people by saying that if passed, the Bill will stop the MSP system. He said that the MSP is an administrative decision of the Centre and it will be continued. 

Tomar said the Bills would give access to farmers to any market they wish to sell their produces. He said that farmers would have a greater say in deciding the prices of their produce. Terming the Bill as revolutionary, he added that it would benefit the farmers of the country. 

The Opposition said the Bill is against the Constitutional principles as agriculture is a State subject.

The House is also discussing two motions moved by the Opposition against the Ordinances on the Bills and demanding that the Bills must be sent to a select committee of Parliament.

For "crony capitalists"

Initiating the debate, senior Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa said that farmers would not accept the Bills. "This is a conspiracy to end MSP. The government will slowly step out from the agriculture sector to pave the way for big corporate houses such as Ambanis and Adanis. This is what happened in the US. This is what happened in India during the colonial regime," he added. 

Senior BJP MP Bhupender Yadav said the Opposition is playing "negative politics".

NDA allies SAD, AIADMK against Bill

Making things difficult for the Government, NDA partner AIADMK too decided to oppose the Bill. DMK has nine MPs in the upper House. Senior MP SR Balasubramoniyan said the Bill is aimed at supporting the corporate houses. Comparing the situation with the Champaran episode during the national movement, he said the Bill would make farmers labourers of big companies. He said the Bill would take away the rights of States too.

 

Trinamool Congress, SP and the DMK also opposed the legislation. CPI(M) MP KK Ragesh said farmers would "teach the BJP a lesson". SAD MP Naresh Gujral that the Bill is a "matter of shame" for every Indian.

YSRCP and JD(U) support

The YSRCP and the JD(U) announced their support to the Bills. Tamil Maanila Congress MP GK Vasan said he supports the Bill, but raised some concerns. 

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on September 20, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor