AMID protest against the three farm Bills which are expected to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha Sunday, Union Minister of Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar Saturday tried to allay farmers’ apprehensions by underlining that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime will continue as before.
The MSP for rabi crops will be announced in the coming week and Tomar said procurement will continue at the MSP. The new provisions under the proposed law stipulate payment within three days of selling the produce, he said.
While MSP for rabi is usually announced mid-October ahead of sowing, the Minister’s statement assumes significance in view of the ongoing protests against the Bills: The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Tomar’s assurances came even as informal talks between some senior Ministers and the Opposition over the Bills continued Saturday without any breakthrough. The Opposition parties remained firm on their demand that they be referred to the select committee.
Apart from the three farm bills, the Opposition parties have said that the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill also requires Parliamentary scrutiny. The Banking Bill was listed as the third item in the business today but could not be taken up. The other three bills are listed in Sunday’s business.
Sources in the Opposition said the Government is “adamant” on pushing these Bills through. With NDA constituent Shiromani Akali Dal withdrawing its Minister from the Government over the Bills, the Opposition believes it has gained some leverage but sources in the BJP said this could further harden the Government’s stand.
Sources in the Congress said the Shiv Sena, too, has promised to oppose the Bills.
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram said: “Every party has to take a stand — is it with the farmers or is it with the BJP threatening the livelihood of farmers.”
“The Congress and other Opposition parties must join hands to oppose the Bills in every forum and ensure that they do not become law in the present form,” Chidambaram said in a statement. He said the Modi government has surrendered to corporates and traders.
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“The two Farm Bills do not contain a clause that the price that the farmer will get from the private purchaser shall not be less than the MSP. Why is such a clause absent? The Bills undermine the only regulated market available to the farmer today, without creating thousands of alternative markets that will be accessible to the farmer. The Bills assume perversely that the farmer and the private purchaser have equal bargaining power. They do not. The small farmer will be at the mercy of the private purchaser,” he said.
In the case of a dispute between the farmer and the private purchaser, he said “the machinery under the Bills is so bureaucratic and convoluted that no farmer will have the strength or the resources to fight the purchaser. The small and medium farmer will be ruined. The Bills undermine the three pillars of our food security system,” he said.
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