The protests against the contentious farm-related Bills and suspension of eight Opposition members from Rajya Sabha echoed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, with the Congress, TMC, DMK, TRS and the Left, among several opposition parties, boycotting proceedings for the day in solidarity with farmers and the suspended MPs.
The Opposition was initially planning to boycott the remaining part of the session, but there were indications that the monsoon session could be wound up by Wednesday. Opposition leaders subsequently said they have decided not to be part of the proceedings for the day.
As the House began, the Opposition began protesting about the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill; as also what happened in the Upper House when they were passed on Sunday. Within 15 minutes, the House was adjourned for an hour.
As it met again at around 4.15 pm, the Opposition again raised the issue, followed by a response from Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar, who took on the Congress for its alleged doublespeak.
Demanding that the Bills be taken back, and expressing solidarity with the suspended RS members, Congress leader of House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary said, “We hoped he would say something about farmers. But he has resorted to white lies. Since 2014, farmers, the youth and labourers have suffered the most (in the country). We wanted MSP to continue, but you snatched that. You are forcing us to boycott the House, and we are going.”
This was in response to Tomar’s allegation that agitations of farmers in parts of the country had been organised by the Congress.
Tomar said, “The Congress says something in the House and something else among the people. The agitations are not being held by farmers but by the Congress. The reforms (proposed in the Bills) are going to help farmers. The productivity is going to rise, revolutionary change is going to come in the farm sector. But the Congress is misleading farmers. Even during their time, MSP was not part of the law.”
He added that the Congress was rattled by the support the Narendra Modi government is getting from farmers.
Earlier, Chowdhary had said, “If my neighbour’s house is on fire, my house will also burn. Our issue was to take back the farm bill…but the government has gone from Mandikaran to Mandiharan. Sharad Pawar is on hunger strike (the NCP chief – a former Union Agriculture minister – said in Mumbai that he is observing a day-long fast on Tuesday to protest the suspension of RS members)…. Will the minister say he will take back the Bill?”
To this, Speaker Om Birla said the House had discussed the Bills for over five hours before passing them, so it is not right to ask for withdrawal. “Today also there are Bills to be passed. Discuss everything. Everyone will get an opportunity,” he said.
As Chowdhury tried to raise the issue of suspension of RS MPs, Birla warned that he cannot refer to what has happened in the other House. “It’s very unfortunate. What transpired in the other House is never discussed here,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said.
DMK’s T R Baalu said the Bills had not been given proper consent by Parliament. TMC’s Kalyan Bannerji said, “Farmers are agitating against the Bill all over India. The BJP may have brute majority, but this is wrong.”
With Chowdhury backed by several opposition parties, Agriculture Minister Tomar said, “…I am surprised over the Congress leaders’ protests, given that the party had promised to implement the same.”
Members from several opposition parties subsequently staged a walkout, saying they would boycott the session.
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