India's parliament passes farm bills amid protest from opposition parties

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Sep 20, 2020, 03.18 PM(IST)

India's parliament Photograph:( Reuters )

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On Sunday, some opposition lawmakers raised slogans, tore documents and tried to grab the speaker's microphone in Rajya Sabha, before the two controversial bills were passed by a voice vote.

India's parliament on Sunday passed new bills the government says will make it easier for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers amid a pandemonium in the Upper House by the opposition parties.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the new laws will reform antiquated laws and remove middlemen from agriculture trade, allowing farmers to sell to institutional buyers and large retailers like Walmart. The bills also will make contract farming easier by providing a new set of rules.

On Sunday, some opposition lawmakers raised slogans, tore documents and tried to grab the speaker's microphone in Rajya Sabha, before the two controversial bills were passed by a voice vote.

The Congress and other opposition party members sat in protest inside Rajya Sabha even after the House was adjourned for the day after the passage of two farm bills.

Members of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, Left parties and some others sat in protest inside the Rajya Sabha chamber even after it was adjourned.

The House sitting ends at 1 pm and Rajya Sabha chamber has to be sanitised by 3 pm when Lok Sabha sits for a session. Both the chambers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are being used for each House to allow members to follow physical distancing norms.

Earlier, Modi's food processing minister from an alliance party resigned on Thursday in protest calling the bills "anti-farmer", and the opposition parties have said farmers' bargaining power will be diminished by allowing retailers to have tighter control over them.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Modi's former food processing minister, is from a regional party which has a strong base in the northern state of Punjab and believes the bills will increase farmer suffering in the breadbasket state.

Her party believes the laws will destroy wholesale markets which ensure fair and timely payments to farmers, weaken the state's farmers and the overall state economy.

Many farmer organisations have in recent days held street protests in Punjab and the neighboring Haryana state near New Delhi. On Sunday, India's main opposition Congress party criticised the government.

"We will make sure that the government will have to step down on its knees before the farming community of this country," said Randeep Surjewala, a party spokesman.

"It will be farmers one side and big businesses on the other side, how will they fight?," he added.

Congress chief whip in Rajya Sabha told PTI that the opposition members will continue to sit in Rajya Sabha chamber till 3 pm to lodge their protest against the government's attitude.

This was done to mark their protest against the manner in which 'The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020' and 'The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020' were passed in the House without taking into consideration the demands of the opposition.

The opposition members had given notices to move motions for sending the bills to a Select Committee for further scrutiny, but the same were not taken up as these members were not on their seats in the House and could not move them as they were protesting.

Earlier the House witnessed uproarious scenes when some opposition members led by the TMC climbed on to the chairman's podium as the government pushed for the passage of the two contentious farm bills.

Slogan-shouting opposition members, including those from the TMC, Congress and Left, created ruckus after Deputy Chairman Harivansh did not consider their demand for a division of votes on a resolution to send the two bills to a select committee.

(with inputs from agencies)

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