Several members from the Opposition and Treasury benches participated in the debate on the three contentious farm laws, which are being opposed by farmers on the borders of Delhi, in the Upper House as part of the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address. Taking a look at the speeches on Wednesday:
Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Leader of Opposition: Azad asked the government to withdraw the three Bills without making it a “prestige issue” and suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself should make the announcement on repeal of the Bills. Declaring that any disrespect to the national flag cannot be tolerated, he also condemned the violence at the Red Fort during the tractor rally on Republic Day. However, he said the government should set up a committee to find out the whereabouts of people “who have gone missing” during the protest. The senior Congress leader cited several examples, including one during his own party’s rule in 1988, of the government giving in to the demands of farmers.
Describing farmers as “annadata”, the Congress veteran said there was no point in confronting them and the government should instead focus on other important issues, including revival of the economy.
Bhubaneswar Kalita (BJP): Kalita said the government respects farmers and has given new rights to them through these new laws and none of their rights or facilities have been taken away. Attacking the opposition members, who were trying to disrupt proceedings of the House, he said, “Let me remind them that the three farm laws have been passed by both the Houses of Parliament after much deliberations.”
Kalita said the “door is always open for farmers for discussion” so that the issue can be resolved amicably. “The government is ready to discuss all issues concerning it, but my appeal to our friends, please do not make it another Shaheen Bagh,” he said.
Vijay Pal Singh Tomar (BJP): Hitting out at those criticising the farm laws, Tomar said they were spreading misinformation. He said the Bills were passed after extensive deliberations, and pointed out that there have been 12 expert committees in the past two decades on farm reforms. He also said the minimum support price has risen under the BJP regime while some people were “creating confusion” that farmers will not get MSP.
RCP Singh (JDU): “Do not confuse people. What does the first law say? The farmer has the freedom to sell his produce anywhere. He can sell it in the mandi too. Is there a barrier?…From Nalanda, now vegetables are going to Kolkata and Ranchi too. There is no stop anywhere…what happens in a contract? A contract is not forced. It has your willingness. When two parties are willing, a contract happens. Is the farmer forced to do a contract? Someone who doesn’t want, will not do a contract….in all three Bills there is nothing against farmers,” Singh said.
Prasanna Acharya (BJD): Acharya suggested a judicial inquiry to probe the violence on January 26. “Putting the whole blame squarely on few farmer organisations or farmer leaders is not going to solve the problem… a proper, impartial enquiry should be instituted… Let it be headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge… Who was behind all this? How thousands of people were allowed into the Red Fort? Who opened the gate… what was the role of the police?… What was the role of the farmer organisations, what was the role of farmer leaders spearheading the agitation and what was the role of the government as a whole,” he said.
Tiruchi Siva (DMK): Siva pointed out that “we had suggested” that this Bill be sent to a select committee. “But they (government) didn’t agree. Hundreds of farmers have died in the bitter cold. The government should have a humanitarian approach towards its citizens. That is our humble suggestion. As per the demand of our party president MK Stalin, we expect that the Prime Minister would assure the repeal of the farm laws,” he said.
Dr K Keshava Rao (TRS): Rao said if the government has agreed to an assurance on MSP during talks with farmers, “I don’t see any reason why it should not go into the book of law”. “What exactly is remaining is not known. My suggestion is can we think of some method where this issue is brought back to the elected representative, the Parliament. And we discuss it here,” he said. “If only we were to be a little more democratic, little more accommodative, little more liberal in approach and receptive in mind, things would not have come to this pass”.
Dr Ram Gopal Yadav (SP): Yadav asked if the government can stay the new laws for a year-and-a-half, “then what is the problem to withdraw all three Bills, repeal them in this session, and bring new Bills, send them to standing committee, and pass new Bills”. He said the government has become so “merciless” that the deaths of protesting farmers is not affecting them “at all”. Referring to the barricades at the Ghazipur, Singhu and Tikri borders, he said the security is higher at these protest sites than Parliament and even the India-Pakistan border.
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