New Delhi, Sep 20 (PTI) The Opposition led by the Congress in Rajya Sabha on Sunday criticised the farm bills, saying they will not sign on the 'death warrant' of farmers, and demanded that they be sent to the Select Committee for scrutiny, while the ruling BJP accused these parties of misleading the farmers.
The Upper House witnessed a heated debate on 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 that have already been passed by Lok Sabha.
The opposition charged that the two bills are aimed at benefitting big corporates and ending the minimum price based procurement by the government, though the Centre has maintained that the MSP system will continue.
K K Ragesh (CPI-M), Derek O'Brien (TMC), Tiruchi Siva (DMK) and K C Venugopal (Congress) moved resolutions for sending the two bills to a select committee of the House for consideration before they are taken up for passage.
Initiating the discussion on the two bills, Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa slammed them as 'ill-conceived and ill-timed' and said his party 'completely rejects' them.
'We will not sign on death warrants of farmers,' he said.
He said the bills are against the spirit of cooperative federalism.
'We do not want any tinkering in APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) and the minimum support price ( MSP),' he said, and wondered what was the need to bring these bills during the COVID-19 crisis.
Referring to protests by farmers in some states, Bajwa said: 'Those whom you want to benefit are on the streets'.
Bajwa said the bills have been brought with an 'intention of ending the MSP (minimum support price) operations'.
'Slowly, the government will come out of this and then Ambani, Adani and big corporate houses will enter (market),' he alleged.
He said the two bills are against the economic interest of Punjab, which has contributed a lot in making India self-sufficient in foodgrain production.
Defending the two Bills, Bhupender Yadav of the BJP charged that the Congress was doing politics over the issue and misleading farmers.
He asked the Congress why the farmers' income did not increase in the last 60-70 years even as the country became self-sufficient in farm production.
These two important bills are the biggest agriculture reform in the country and will give justice to farmers by increasing their income, Yadav said.
He said the new age agriculture bills will boost processing, marketing and exports of farm produce.
Yadav said a report of the working group of agriculture production in 2010 suggested similar reforms. 'Today, you (Congress) are doing politics. You are doing injustice with farmers because of politics,' he said.
However, he said the country and farmers are understanding the 'politics' of the Congress.
'Opposition should stop doing politics and also misleading farmers,' he said.
'We are not taking away the land of farmers,' he said, and added that the two bills are only meant to harness the huge potential of the agriculture sector.
TMC leader Derek O'Brien demanded that the Bills should be sent to a select committee.
'These bills need to be debated in Parliament. You have the numbers to have your way and we have the right to have our say and to keep you on track of Parliamentary democracy.
'This is a very very dangerous trend we are following. Select committee is not a hand break...it is there to contribute. I am going to move select committee,' he said.
'The PM said the opposition is trying to mislead the farmers. Let us see what credibility you have to make these speeches. You promised to double farmers' income by 2022. At the current rate, the farmer incomes would not double till 2028,' he said.
Noting that the government promised two crore jobs every year, he said: 'Now you have the highest unemployment.' The Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav said there seems to be some compulsion that the ruling party does not want to discuss the bills and is in a hurry to pass them.
'It appears that this bill has not been drafted by you. A son of a farmer cannot draft such a bill. When you go back to your native place, the youths would ask you what were you doing when our death warrants were being issued in Parliament,' he asked.
Binoy Viswam (CPI) requested the minister to move an official amendment ensuring the MSP for the farmers.
'In that case, I promise you, even though we oppose you politically, the Communist Party of India will support this Bill,' he said.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut expressed concern that farming was gradually going into the hands of corporates. He suggested a one-day parliament session to discuss such legislations.
The BJP’s oldest ally, Shiromani Akali Dal, which had quit the Modi government in protest against these bills, also supported sending them to the Select Committee.
Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (SAD) said farmers are unhappy that their sacrifices are not being reciprocated.
'I also say that MSP should be there but I want to ask as to whether anyone has given appropriate MSP as per the needs of the farmers till date,' he said.
His party colleague Naresh Gujral said farmers of Punjab feel threatened today by these bills.
Sanjay Singh (AAP) said his party would protest against the bills all over the country.
G K Vasan (Tamil Manila Congress) said everyone needs to respect the farmers and ensure that they get suitable price for their produce so that their livelihoods are safeguarded and the quality of their life improves.
Participating in the debate, Shreyams Kumar (LJD) said the 'real intent' is to do away with MSP.
The Government will exit and the corporate will step in, he said.
Amar Patnaik (BJD) also said the government should consider sending the Bills to the Select Committee for further examination, clarification and fine tuning of some provisions to take care of the structural issues in Indian agriculture, particularly related to the small and marginal farmers.
There was uproar in the House after V Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP), while speaking in support of the bill, accused the Congress of 'hypocrisy' as the bill contained the promises made by the Congress in its Lok Sabha poll manifesto.
As Reddy accused the Congress of promoting 'middlemen' and some other remarks, Congress members objected.
'What is this hypocrisy. Why they are opposing these bills. They are nothing but....,' he said.
Anand Sharma (Cong) said the member's conduct has not been as per the traditions of the House and he should retract his statement and apologise.
L Hanumanthaiah, who was in the chair at the time, said he would look into the records and expunge any objectionable remarks made.
The din continued for sometime in the House with YSRCP and Congress members engaged in arguments.
Reddy said the bills were in favour of the farmers as it promoted contract farming that would ensure sale of their produce and free them from the clutches of middlemen.
He also demanded that tobacco be brought under the purview of the bills.
Tiruchi Siva (DMK) alleged the government's intention was to 'sell the farmers' and make them dependent.
Siva claimed the government said it was an attempt to save farmers from the clutches of traders but in fact it was to send them into the clutches of corporates, as he questioned the government's 'sudden affection' towards farmers.
Shaktisingh Gohil (Cong) said farmers will be 'ruined' by these bills and demanded to know how the government will convince the masses when it could not convince its Cabinet colleague.
He demanded sending it to a Select Committee.
Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, who took oath as a member of the Upper House today, suggested forming a permanent commission to advise the government on MSP and other issues.
Ahmed Patel (Cong) said UPA's NYAY (Nyuntam Aay Yojana) scheme has promised an income of Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent households in India.
Patel claimed that the previous government has added 70 per cent people in the National Food Security Act but the present government reduced it to 20 per cent.
Akhilesh Prasad Singh (Cong) and Dola Sen ( Trinamool Congress) termed the Bills anti-farmers.
The two bills were later passed by the House amid protests by the opposition members. PTI KKS MJH KRH NAM NKD SKC ANZ RT