Rajya Sabha passes key farm Bills amid uproar

By: |
September 21, 2020 6:20 AM

The deputy chairman also overruled Opposition pleas for postponing agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s reply to the debate till Monday as the scheduled sitting time of the House was over.

Moving the Bills in Rajya Sabha, Tomar said: “The two Bills are historic and will bring a change in the lives of the farmers.

Amid uproar by sections of the Opposition, Rajya Sabha on Sunday passed two Bills that seek to replace two recent ordinances aimed at facilitating barrier-free inter-state trading of farm goods and contract farming, respectively. Since the Lok Sabha had passed the Bills last Thursday, only President’s assent is now required for these to become law.

While the passage of the Bills in Lok Sabha led to the unexpected resignation of food processing industries minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the Narendra Modi Cabinet, Rajya Sabha also witnessed unprecedented scenes after deputy chairman Harivansh declared motions moved by the Congress, TMC, DMK and CPI (M ) for sending the Bills to a select committee of the Upper House were negated by voice vote. He did not allow division of votes either as sought by the movers of the motions.

The deputy chairman also overruled Opposition pleas for postponing agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s reply to the debate till Monday as the scheduled sitting time of the House was over.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 seeks to provide freedom to farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country while The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, offers a legal framework to contract farming by farmers with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services.

While a section of farmers are protesting against the Bills despite the government’s assurance that procurement of agri produce at MSPs would continue, the Opposition parties have fuelled agitation, especially in Punjab and Haryana.

On June 5, the Centre promulgated three Ordinances reforming the country’s agriculture marketing. During the June 6-August 31 period, mandi arrivals of crops – from fruits and vegetables to cereals and pulses – have dropped. The fall was up to 49% for fruits, 57% for vegetables and 45% for grains. This seems to signify a weakening of the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) networks, a development which may bolster bargaining strength of farmers.

Moving the Bills in Rajya Sabha, Tomar said: “The two Bills are historic and will bring a change in the lives of the farmers. They will be able to freely trade their produce anywhere in the country. I want to assure the farmers that these Bills are not related to minimum support price.”

Prime minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “A watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture! Congratulations to our hardworking farmers on the passage of key bills in Parliament, which will ensure a complete transformation of the agriculture sector as well as empower crores of farmers.”

The Centre through another ordinance also promulgated in June, made changes to the Essential Commodities Act removing cereals, edible oil, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato from its purview. The reforms are expected to help evacuate the surpluses from production zones to demand zones seamlessly, to the advantage of farmer-producers and players across the agriculture value chain, who have also been promised solid support by way of schemes and outlays to build infrastructure and logistical chains from farm-gate to the retail trade, and even exports.

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