Rajya Sabha Debates Farm Bills, “Government In A Rush,” Says Opposition

The farm bills will help farmers get a better price for their produce, the government says. (File)

New Delhi: The farm bills are “historic” and will bring a change in the lives of the farmers, said Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar as he moved two bills in the Rajya Sabha today. The NDA, with support of parties like the Biju Janata Dal and the YSR Congress, has the numbers to push through the bills. Three agri-sector bills were passed in the Lok Sabha last week amid farmer protests and opposition walk-outs. The issue has driven a wedge between the BJP and its long-time ally Akali Dal, which walked out of the government after initially supporting the bills. The bills have stirred massive protests among farmers in states like Punjab and Haryana.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, while presenting the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce Bill, and the Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, reiterated that the bills have nothing to do with the Minimum Support Price. “MSP will continue as before. I had said this in Lok Sabha and PM Modi himself has assured that the MSP will not be tampered with,” Mr Tomar said.

  2. Congress MP from Punjab Partap Singh Bajwa termed the farm bills as ‘ill-conceived’ and ‘ill-timed’. “We will not sign on this death warrant of farmers. Agriculture markets are a state subject. APMC and MSP should not be tinkered with,” he said. “I am unable to understand why is there a need to bring this bill at the time when the country is fighting a pandemic and its neighbour along the Line of Actual Control. Why can’t you start this from Gujarat first? If it is a success, others will follow,” he added.

  3. The farmers, who have been holding protests against the bills for weeks, stepped up the agitation today. The Haryana farmers are holding a “road rook” protest against the farm bills. Led by the Youth Congress, they are also holding a “Kisan Aakrosh” tractor rally from Chandigarh to Delhi.

  4. Sources in the Congress said with very few members to push the opposition, they will move a resolution for the bill to be sent to a select committee and then walkout with the rest of the opposition. Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal, which has nine members, has demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee.

  5. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is expected to have around 105 votes in the Upper House which has a current absolute strength of 243. Two seats are vacant and the majority mark is set at 122. The BJP, on its own, has 86 members or votes. With its NDA allies, it can count on 105. The AIADMK with nine members and the TRS are supporting the bill.

  6. The Congress-led opposition – which includes 13 Trinamool Congress MPs and seven from the DMK — will be on the back foot. The Congress itself has 40 seats and can count on a few others – such as the BSP (four seats), the Samajwadi Party (eight seats) and Delhi’s ruling AAP (three seats).

  7. On Thursday, the Akali Dal, which initially supported the bills, opposed it and walked out of the government. Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal said for now, they would support the government but it could be up for review at an internal meeting of the party. The Akalis, who initially supported the bills, changed their stand in the backdrop of pressure from farmers and the Congress.

  8. The government has said the bills will help small and marginal farmers by empowering them to sell their produce at competitive prices anywhere in India. On Friday, Prime Minister Modi hit out at a “misinformation” campaign by the opposition over the MSP.

  9. Ten MPs of the Upper House have tested positive for coronavirus and will not be in the House today. Another 15 MPs, including the Congress’s P Chidambaram – who on Saturday morning hit out at PM Modi over the bills – will not attend on health grounds. This should help the BJP since it brings down the majority mark.

  10. The monsoon session of the parliament is expected to be cut short because of fears over the coronavirus pandemic. The Lok Sabha is likely to wrap up by Wednesday and the Rajya Sabha will follow suit. Twenty-five MPs (10 from the Rajya Sabha) have tested positive for the virus so far, leading to fears it may spread further still.

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