New Delhi, Sep 21 (PTI) The farm reform bills passed by Parliament were 'the need of 21st century India', Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted on Monday, and accused the Opposition of misleading farmers, saying they 'feel control slipping away', even as a number of parties stepped up attack against the Centre, and wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him not to grant his assent to the proposed legislations.
Also Monday, Eight opposition members, including TMC leader Derek O'Brien and Sanjay Singh of AAP, were suspended from Rajya Sabha for the rest of the Monsoon Session of Parliament for 'unruly behaviour' during the passage of two farm bills on Sunday, but they refused to leave the House, leading to frequent adjournments, and fresh protests --inside and outside the Parliament.
The Congress announced that it will launch a nationwide agitation against the farm bills passed by Parliament and also initiate a campaign for collecting two crore signatures of farmers and the poor against these proposed legislations.
With opposition parties dubbing these contentious legislations as 'anti-farmers' and protests continuing in states like Punjab and Haryana, Modi strongly defended these measures, saying farmers will now have the freedom to sell their produce at a place and price of their choice.
Attacking critics, he said a 'clique' of people exploited farmers for long as they remained in shackles of rules regulating the sale of their produce, and asserted that this needed to change, which his government has done.
'After these historical changes in the agricultural sector, some people are losing their control of it. So now these people are trying to mislead farmers on MSP (minimum support price). They are the same people who sat for years on the recommendations of the Swaminathan committee on MSP,' Modi said, in an apparent swipe at the Congress.
Describing the legislations as 'very historic', the prime minister said if somebody says that government-regulated agriculture markets will be finished after these reforms, then he is 'blatantly lying'.
Noting that his government had brought the farm ordinances, which these legislations will replace, in June, he said farmers are already getting a better price for their produce in several states.
Modi's remarks came amidst an unrelenting attack against the Central govenment, from opposition parties as well as its ally Shiromani Akali Dal, leaders of which met Kovind and requested him to not grant assent to these proposed legislations, while leaders of various political parties including the Congress, the Left parties, NCP, DMK, SP, Trinamool Congress and the RJD submitted a memorandum to the President, seeking his intervention in the matter.
Objecting to the manner in which the farm bills were being passed, opposition members tormed the well of the House on Suday, and when their demand for voting wasn't met, they tore papers, climbed on tables, shouted slogans, and even threw the rule book at Deputy Chairman Harivansh, who was presiding at that time.
A motion for the suspension of the eight including Rajeev Satav, Syed Nasir Hussain and Ripun Bora (all Cong), Dola Sen (TMC), KK Ragesh and Elamaram Kareen (all CPM) was moved by the government and approved by a voice vote in the House. The suspended MPs along with other opposition members held a protest near the Gandhi statue in the Parliament.
According to a senior TMC leader, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoke to these MPs, and appreciated their efforts towards 'upholding the values of Parliament'.
Banerjee, who in the morning condemned the government for its action, also released an audio clip in which she strongly citicised the BJP, alleging that the party is making an all out effort to make states powerless and itself all powerful.
Accusing opposition leaders of irresponsible conduct in Rajya Sabha during the passage of the farm bills, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said their conduct was 'shameful' and 'irresponsible'.
He was addressing a press conference with Union ministers --Prahlad Joshi and Piyush Goyal-- on the ruckus in the Upper House on Sunday and Monday.
Opposition Rajya Sabha members despite being suspended did not leave the House on Monday which was an open violation of the rules, Prasad said.
'We had a clear majority in Rajya Sabha on farm bills,' he said, adding that 110 members supported the bills and a little over 70 opposed it.
Citing Congress' election manifesto and statements by chief ministers of the states ruled by it, he accused the opposition party of double standards on issues including contract farming and agriculture produce marketing committees.
Meanwhile, the government hiked the minimum price for buying six rabi crops, including wheat, by up to six per cent, as it sought to send a strong message to farmers on continuation of MSP-based procurement system.
The MSP of wheat, the biggest crop of rabi season, has been hiked by Rs 50 to Rs 1,975 per quintal, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said in Lok Sabha.
Besides, MSPs of lentil (masoor), gram, barley, safflower and mustard/ rapeseed have been increased.
Farmer groups in Punjab, Haryana and some other states are also protesting the two bills -- 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, 2020.
Tomar said the MSPs of six rabi crops were approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by the Prime Minister on Monday, a move aimed at encouraging farmers ahead of the sowing operations of winter crops. PTI MJH KR KKS NKD NAM PRS ANZ SKC RAM ASK ASG JTR NAB PYK PYK