Parliament approves repeal of farm laws; Opposition protests demanding debate
New Delhi: Parliament passed a bill to repeal the three agri laws, which had triggered an agitation by farmer unions, on the first day of the Winter Session on Monday with Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha approving it without any debate within minutes of taking it up amid protests by opposition members who were demanding a discussion.
The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 now awaits the assent of President Ram Nath Kovind for the formal withdrawal of the three contentious laws against which farmers have been protesting for the past year at Delhi borders.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept his word as the government has brought the bill on the very first day of the Winter session of parliament, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, while introducing the bill in the two Houses.
He sought the support of the members in its passage without a discussion, noting that both the government and the opposition are in favour of repealing the three laws.
Though the bill was passed by voice vote within minutes of its introduction in both Houses, opposition members continued their protest demanding a discussion on farmers’ issues, including legal sanctity to Minimum Support Price of crops and compensation to families of farmers who died during the year-long agitation.
On November 19, in a special address to the nation, Prime Minister Modi announced that all three farm laws will be repealed in the Winter Session and had said these laws were brought for the welfare of farmers, especially small farmers, but his government could not explain the benefits to some farmers despite its efforts.
The agitating farmer unions have, however, refused to withdraw their stir till other demands, including a legal guarantee on MSP, are met.
On Monday, Tomar introduced the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021, which stated that “Even though only a group of farmers are protesting against these laws, the Government has tried hard to sensitise the farmers on the importance of the Farm Laws and explain the merits through several meetings and other forums.”
Without taking away the existing mechanisms available to farmers, new avenues were provided for the trade of their produce, the copy of the Bill said, adding that the laws have been stayed by the Supreme Court of India.
“During the COVID period, the farmers have worked hard to increase production and fulfil the needs of the nation. As we celebrate the 75th Year of Independence— ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, the need of the hour is to take everyone together on the path of inclusive growth and development,” the Bill said.
In Lok Sabha, the opposition entered the Well of the House demanding a debate on the bill and raised slogans and banners.
On opposition members’ demand, Speaker Om Birla said: “You want debate, I am ready to allow debate when there is order in the House. But if you come to the Well, how can there be a debate.”
Birla said a discussion was not possible when the MPs were standing in the Well holding placards.
However, the opposition members did not pay heed to the Speaker’s appeal and continued their protests.
Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said since the bill is listed for consideration and passage, why is there no discussion.
He accused the government of taking the House for a ride.
As the turmoil continued, the Speaker took a voice vote and declared the bill passed.
The three laws are The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act; The Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
The repeal of these three legislations has been one of the key demands of around 40 farmer unions protesting against these reforms for nearly a year now at various Delhi border points
These laws, which are under suspension following a Supreme Court order in January this year, had triggered widespread protests by thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.
The protest, which started in November 2020, is still continuing. The unions are asking for a legal guarantee to Minimum Support Price for crops, among other demands.
The members of TRS, DMK and TMC were in the Well during the passage of the bill. The MPs from the Congress, NCP, BSP and IUML were protesting while standing at their respective seats.
Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Dharmendra Pradhan, Smriti Irani, Bhupender Yadav, Ashwini Vaishnaw and others were present in the House.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah were among those who were present in the House.
Later, the bill was taken up by Rajya Sabha.
Deputy Chairman Harivansh allowed Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge to speak briefly.
Kharge was of the view that the government has taken back the three farm laws in view of the forthcoming elections in five states after reviewing the results of recent bypolls.
He also mentioned the “death of over 700 farmers” during the agitation against these laws.
While seeking passage of the bill, Tomar the three laws were brought for the benefit of farmers.
He regretted that the government could not convince the agitating farmers about the benefits of the laws. He also attacked the Congress for adopting “double standard” on the laws, as its own election manifesto talked about the need for reforms in the farm sector.
He said Prime Minister Modi showed a large heart by announcing the repeal of the laws on Guru Nanak Jayanti.
Tomar said as both the government and the opposition parties are for repeal of the laws, so there was no need for any discussion on the farm repeal bill.
Rajya Sabha too passed the bill with a voice vote amid protests by Congress and TMC members. Dola Sen (TMC) and Nadimul Haque (TMC) were in the Well.
According to the copy of the Bill, the three laws were part of the Government’s endeavour to improve the condition of farmers including small and marginal farmers.
“These enactments— (a) provided freedom to the farmers to sell their produce to any buyer at any place of their choice to realise remunerative prices; (b) created an ecosystem wherein processor, bulk buyers, organised retailers and exporters and the like can directly engage with the farmers;
“(c) created a facilitative framework for electronic trading to improve transparency and price discovery; and (d) provided a legal framework for farming contracts to protect the interest of the farmers, economically empower them and assure the price for their produce in advance,”‘ it said,