President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday gave his assent to three contentious farm bills even as the opposition was trying its best to attract other NDA partners out of the coalition after the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) broke out of its long-held alliance with the BJP.
The three bills have generated massive protests by farmers across the country, especially in Punjab and Haryana. After two of the bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha last week amid high drama, the opposition had requested the President not to sign the bills. This would have sent them back to Parliament for reconsideration, according to the procedure.
According to a gazette notification, the President gave his assent to three farm bills: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 provides for the permit of the sale of agricultural produce outside the mandis regulated by the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) constituted by different state laws.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 has created the provision of contract farming.
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 de-regulates the production, supply and distribution of food items like cereals, potatoes, pulses, onion and oilseeds.
The manner in which the three bills have been passed in Parliament has drawn criticism from several political parties. The opposition made the allegation that the bills were pushed through voice vote in contravention of the rules. According to them, if a physical voting was done by all members present in the House, it would have become clear that the government lacked numbers. They also accused Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh of being part of the process of passing the bills in this way.
Farmers are anxious about dealing directly with the corporates. Their fear is that they will not be paid even the Minimum Support Price (MSP) fixed by the government. Large protests were held across the country on Friday and the Shiromani Akali Dal said they plan to hold a tractor rally on October 1.
On the other hand Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again reiterated that the three Farm Bills will go a long way to help the farmers across the country. In his Mann ki Baat address on Sunday, he talked about the farmers who have benefitted by the policies of his government since 2014. He said that the Farm Bills will empower farmers and give them freedom to sell their produce.