Millennium Post

LS clears farm Bills; Harsimrat Kaur quits govt in protest

New Delhi: Amid the farmers' protest and NDA's key ally Akali Dal's lone Cabinet minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal quitting the Modi government over contentious farm reform Bills, the Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the controversial Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.

The Bills were passed amid the controversy in the country that legislations have overlooked the interests of farmers by making it for the welfare of corporates.

The Bills were deemed as passed by the Lok Sabha after the Opposition didn't seek voting on any clause related to the aforementioned Bills.

Nevertheless, the Congress, the DMK and the Left parties opposed the Bills and walked out of the House in protest. On the passage of the Bill, the government said that these would ensure that farmers get better prices for their produce and they would not be subjected to the regulations of 'mandis'.

It also said that farmers would be free to sell their produce to anyone without paying any mandi fee as these Bills would increase competition and promote private investment that would help in the development of farm infrastructure and generate employment. Prior to passage of the Bill, in an important political development, Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who was the part of the Cabinet meeting that cleared the controversial ordinances, resigned shortly before the voting on the Bills in the Lok Sabha.

She resigned as her party faced the heat of farmers in Punjab over its initial support to ally BJP's farm sector Bills.

Commenting on the resignation, her husband and party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said that the Akalis will continue to support the government from outside but oppose "anti-farmer policies".

Calling her resignation a "normal course of action for any Akali", Badal tweeted that she was "proud to stand with farmers as their daughter and sister".

As per the political experts, the resignation of Badal from the Modi cabinet is a political move to safeguard their vote share in Punjab as Akali Dal is a major stakeholder in the state politics. Earlier in the day, opposing the contentious Bills, Congress alleged that there is nothing in the bill that protects farmers' rights and improves their situation.

"We are protesting with farmers and farmers unions against the Bills. It is a conspiracy to remove minimum support price (MSP). Agriculture Minister and Prime Minister doesn't have farming land. They do not have lands so they cannot understand the farmers' pain," Congress General Secretary, Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

Surjewala further alleged that the Bills are a "conspiracy to turn farmers into labourers in their own field."

Presenting the farmers' view, Bharatiya Kisan Union spokesperson Dharmendra Malik said, "The Bill is aimed at empowering big players and not farmers as the legislation talks about doing away with 'mandi system' and allowing farmers to sell their produce on their own. In this case, who would be accountable for any payment default?"

"If the government really wants to protect the interests of farmers, then why not they are mentioning in the legislation that procurement of crops below the MSP would be a crime. Also, the government has levied mandi tax for farmers, while it has been exempted for the corporates," he said.

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