Three controversial farm bills set to become laws
The government passed three contentious bills that are expected to have far-reaching consequences for the agriculture sector admit stiff outcry from farmers‚Äô groups and the opposition.
Amidst staunch opposition in the parliament and in the streets, the government passed two out of three farm bills in the Rajya Sabha, with the third one going to vote on Monday. Opposition MPs says the government ‚Äúbulldozed‚ÄĚ the bills because it knew it didn‚Äôt have the numbers with many of its allies like BJD, TRS and SAD also coming out against the bills. Opposition parties, including the Congress, wanted the bills referred to a select parliamentary committee and a more detailed discussion. The bills have already been passed in the Lok Sabha, where the government commands a brute majority, and the president will now have to give his assent before they are notified as laws.
The government says the three bills – Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill – would transform the agriculture sector and double farmers‚Äô incomes by 2022. It will give farmers the choice to sell their products outside government-controlled markets at the best prices available to them. This is expected to reduce the influence of middlemen, encourage interstate trading and reduce transportation costs. The bills also seek to bring in more private money in the sector through framework agreements for contract farming, and invite FDI into items like cereals and pulses by removing them from essential commodities list.
Meanwhile, there have been relentless farmers‚Äô protests on the streets, specifically by those from Punjab and Haryana. Their main concern is that these three new bills would eventually lead to the dismantling of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) structure that guarantees them a minimum income. Another concern of theirs is on the corporatisation of agriculture which would leave them at the mercy of big companies. Members of several farmers‚Äô unions blocked roads and burned the effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The police had to resort to using water cannons on some Congress workers from Punjab to stop them from taking a tractor rally into the capital. Some protestors set fire to their own tractor when they were forced to wind up protests at a rally site.