Govt defends farm laws in Rajya Sabha, Opposition says otherwise
New Delhi: The government on Friday strongly defended the farm laws in Rajya Sabha and said its offer to amend them should not be viewed as if they had any flaws, even as the Opposition demanded that the legislations be repealed and fresh ones brought after consultations.
The government also launched a fierce attack on the Congress and other Opposition parties for trying to instigate the farmers with wrong information.
Intervening in the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar alleged that farmers were being misled by the Opposition and the agitation was only in one state.
As many as 50 speakers from 25 political parties participated in the debate in Rajya Sabha on the Motion of Thanks lasting over three days. While 18 members of the BJP took part in the discussion, seven Congress MPs and 25 from other Opposition parties also spoke.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reply to the motion on Monday after Question Hour.
Parties like Congress, Shiv Sena, SAD, NCP, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and from the Left demanded that the three new farm laws be repealed.
The Opposition members also attacked the government for dubbing the farmers protesting against the new laws as “anti-national” and for “defaming” their agitation.
Congress MP Anand Sharma said the economic growth in the country has been sluggish and the situation has worsened after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government is responsible for this situation,” he said, adding that in these circumstances farmers were forced to fight for justice and their rights.
He criticised the attack on Delhi Police personnel during the farmers’ tractor parade rally on Republic Day.
On the snapping of Internet at farmer protest sites and disrupting of water and power, he said, “We have become internet shutdown capital of the world. It is time to mend ways, especially during this Parliament session.”
Party colleague Partap Singh Bajwa demanded setting up of a committee headed by a Supreme Court judge for an impartial probe into the January 26 incidents.
Another Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge said the government claims it has increased the MSP for crops and doubling farmers’ income, but data suggests otherwise.
He said the schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, mentioned in the President’s speech, were actually one that benefitted capitalists and termed the government’s claim of doubling farmers’ income a “jumla” (rhetoric).
In his speech, Tomar said the Opposition parties criticised the government and even termed the three legislations as “kala kanun” (black law). “For two months I kept asking farmer unions what is ‘kala’ in the laws so that I can try to rectify. But I could not get the answer.”
Tomar, along with two other union ministers, has held 11 meetings with farmers’ representatives in wake of the ongoing protests. But the deadlock still continues.
The minister said while the central law on contract farming free farmers from paying taxes on their sale and also empowers them to exit agreement with traders, as per the provisions of Punjab contract law, a farmer could be sent to jail or liable to pay penalty of up to Rs 5 lakh for violation of agreement.
Certain remarks by the minister were, however, expunged by the chair.
Taking on the Congress over charges that journalists and intellectuals have been arrested, Rakesh Sinha (BJP) said he would like to show a mirror to the party.
He claimed that 53,000 people were imprisoned under the now-scrapped Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, and only 434 of them were convicted after seven years.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut alleged that anyone speaking the truth is dubbed as a “traitor” or “anti-national” and that cases of sedition have been slapped against those criticising the government.
He said farmers fighting for their rights have been branded as anti-nationals or Khalistanis.
He said the farmers, who were known as ‘warriors’ when they fought the Mughals and the British, are now dubbed as anti-nationals when they are fighting for their rights on Delhi’s borders.
He said till the time this movement is alive, the nation will remain alive and this ‘andolan’.
Praful Patel (NCP) said when the government is talking of working for the welfare of farmers, why did it not send the farm laws to a Select Committee for wider consultations to avoid the situation that has arisen now.
He also clarified that former Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s letter of 2007 is being circulated to misrepresent the facts as no bill was brought to Parliament.
BSP member Satish Chandra Misra demanded that the government should repeal the three new farm laws and also provide legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP) on all crops, alleging that the government’s intention are not clear.
He said if the government is ready to suspend the laws for 1.5 years, what is stopping it from withdrawing these Acts. He urged the government to shed its ego and accept the farmers’ demand.
SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the prime minister should intervene and listen to the farmers’ demands.
The Akali Dal member said the government should accept the farmers’ demand to repeal the three laws. He said all Opposition parties are also demanding the same.
IUML member Abdul Wahab demanded restoration of MPLADs fund.
CPI member Binoy Viswam hit out at the government for terming the economic crisis as an act of God, and said the policies of the government are squarely responsible for the situation and not the almighty.
Putting up a strong defence, BJP member Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe said the government is committed to the welfare of farmers and has taken a slew of steps in the last six years in that direction.
“Everyone keeps saying that the government must leave its arrogance but where is the arrogance… We are ready for talks. We even offered to put it (the laws) in abeyance for 18 months. If we are showing so much flexibility why don’t they (protesting farmers) show similar flexibility… If people in support of the laws also sit on dharna, do we want civil war,” he said.
BJP member K J Alphonse said hoisting a religious flag at the Red Fort was “treason”.
He said farmer leader Rakesh Tikait cannot get away by shedding tears after the violence during their tractor parade seeking the repeal of new farm laws. He also accused the Opposition of sowing the seeds of dissent and hatred against the government.
BJP leader Neeraj Shekar asked the protesting farmers to recognise people who have boycotted the presidential address and now participating in the debate to give speech on injustice meted out to farmers.
BJD leader Sasmit Patra attacked the government for not properly implementing the Swaminathan Committee report on MSP.
Subhash Chandra Bose Pilli of YSRCP raised state issues such as special status to Andhra Pradesh and approval of revised cost estimate of the Polavaram Irrigation project.
Shamsher Singh Manhas of the BJP said the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was neglected by previous governments. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now working towards the development of Jammu and Kashmir and is ensuring funds are available for that.
RPI (A) member Ramdas Athawale said three new farm laws are good and should have been supported. Why the government would bring laws that are against farmers, he asked.
He said farmers’ agitation should have been withdrawn when the Supreme Court had stayed implementation of these laws till further order.
BJP member Anil Jain criticised the Congress for boycotting the President’s address. Sonal Mansingh, BJP nominated and BJP members Indu Bala Goswami, Brijlal, Ram Chander Jangra of BJP also spoke on the occasion. (PTI)