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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Contentious Bills slated for Rajya Sabha, Centre talks to non-Congress Opposition parties

While the BJP stepped up its attack on the Congress, senior Union ministers are learnt to have reached out to some non-Congress opposition parties.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Updated: September 19, 2020 12:33:33 pm
parliament, parliament monsoon session, parliament Coronavirus, rajya sabha on coronavirus, Covid-19 discussion, Narendra Modi, Opposition on Covid, Indian expressThe bill seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated in this regard in June.

The Rajya Sabha will take up for passage three contentious Bills, including the two farm-related ones, over the weekend, even as the government and ruling BJP took different approaches with the Opposition, which is protesting all these proposed laws.

While the BJP stepped up its attack on the Congress, senior Union ministers are learnt to have reached out to some non-Congress opposition parties.

Sources said Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal also established contact with the Congress’s Rajya Sabha leadership but appeared to be not in a mood to concede to the latter’s demand to refer these Bills to select committees.

While the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill is listed for Saturday, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill are listed for Sunday. The Congress and other opposition parties are opposed to all three Bills, as also the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill.

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The government side is learnt to have approached some non-Congress opposition parties with a proposal to have a meeting with Tomar.

Also read | As MPs test positive, Covid concerns may cut short Monsoon Session

Outside Parliament, meanwhile, the war of words between Congress and BJP over the farm Bills intensified Friday. The Congress alleged that the Bills were part of a “conspiracy” to scrap MSP.

BJP president J P Nadda countered, saying the Congress had in its 2019 manifesto promised to “bring farmers out of APMC.”

He said: “Their manifesto had said that the Essential Commodities Act has become outdated…we will free people from its purview. PM Narendra Modi has done it. Today, those opposing these Bills…are speaking the language of middlemen…”

He said farmers, so far, were had been tied by the APMC Act. “That you can only sell your produce at the grain market. Wasn’t that an era of slavery? PM Modi said we will free them. Farmers will be free to sell their produce wherever they want—be it at the grain market or outside, or at any corner of the country…”

The Congress manifesto had promised that if voted to power it will “repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committees Act and make trade in agricultural produce — including exports and inter-state trade — free from all restrictions”.

Also read | Explained: Why three agriculture Bills pushed Akali Dal to quit Union Cabinet

Arguing that the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, belongs to the age of controls, the party had also promised to “replace the Act by an enabling law that can be invoked only in the case of emergencies.”

Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said the party had promised to establish thousands of farmers’ markets which would be an improvement over the APMC system. The manifesto, he said, had promised to “establish farmers’ markets with adequate infrastructure and support in large villages and small towns to enable the farmer to bring his/her produce and freely market the same.”

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who headed the manifesto committee, said he was disappointed with BJP’s “distortion” of the manifesto statement.

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