Why is govt ‘running away’ from giving legal responsibility for MSP, asks Congress

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New Delhi, September 20

As agriculture-related bills were tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress on Sunday stepped up its attack on the Centre over the issue and accused it of “running away” from giving legal responsibility for the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

Days after their passage in the Lok Sabha, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar introduced 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, in the Rajya Sabha.

Tomar said minimum price or MSP based procurement of agriculture crops from farmers will continue and is not related to the farm bills that seek to give cultivators freedom to market their produce.

Also read: Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar moves crucial farm Bills in Rajya Sabha

Kejriwal urges non-BJP parties to vote against farm bills in Rajya Sabha

Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the Modi government would get the “three black bills” passed in the Rajya Sabha through whip. “But no answer — how will the 15.5 crore farmers’ land get MSP, who will give?” Surjewala said.

“Why is the government running away from giving legal responsibility for MSP? Who will take the responsibility for MSP outside the ‘mandi’?” he asked.

The bills are also facing staunch opposition from farmer bodies as well as from within the ruling coalition. Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the food processing minister from the Shiromani Akali Dal party, resigned from the government last week.

Opposition parties led by the Congress criticised the farm bills tabled in Rajya Sabha on Sunday, saying they would not sign on the “death warrant” of farmers.

The Opposition charged that the two Bills were aimed at benefitting big corporates and ending the minimum price based procurement by the government.

The Rajya Sabha took up the discussion on 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 that have already been passed by Lok Sabha.

KK Ragesh (CPI-M), Derek O’Brien (TMC), Trichi Siva (DMK) and KC Venugopal (Congress) moved resolutions for sending the two bills to a select committee of the House for consideration before they are taken up for passage.

Initiating the discussion on these two bills, Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa, who hails from Punjab, described the proposed laws as “ill-conceived and ill-timed” and said his party “completely rejects” them.

He said the bills were against landowners across the country, especially those of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.

“We will not sign on death warrants of farmers,” he said.

With agriculture being a state subject, he said the bills are against the federal cooperative spirit.

“We do not want any tinkering in the APMC and the minimum support price (MSP),” he said and wondered what was the need to bring these bills during COVID-19.

Bajwa said farmers were on streets to protest against these two bills. “Those whom you want to benefit are on the streets.”

The Congress leader said the BJP’s alliance partner Akali Dal has already opposed the Bills and Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Union Cabinet.

Bajwa said the bills have been brought with an “intention of ending the MSP (minimum support price) operations”.

“Slowly, the government will come out of this and then Ambani, Adani and big corporate houses will enter (market),” he alleged.

The Congress leader said the two bills were against the economic interest of Punjab, which has contributed a lot in making India self-sufficient in foodgrain production.

Defending the two Bills, Bhupender Yadav of the BJP charged that the Congress was doing politics over this issue and misleading farmers.

He asked the Congress why the farmers’ income did not increase in the past 60 to 70 years even as the country become self-sufficient in farm production.

“These two important Bills are the biggest agriculture reform in the country and will give justice to farmers by increasing their income,” Yadav said.

He rued that food processing level was still very low in India and said the new age agriculture bills would boost processing, marketing, and exports of farm produces.

Yadav said a report of a working group of agriculture production in 2010 suggested similar reforms. “Today, you (Congress) are doing politics. You are doing injustice with farmers because of politics,” he said.

However, he said the country and farmers were understanding the “politics” of the Congress. Farmers are a vote bank for the Congress, he said.

He highlighted various schemes and programmes launched by the Prime Minister in the past six years for the growth of the agriculture and allied sectors while noting that the budget for the agriculture sector has been enhanced.

Yadav said the government would continue to purchase crops at the minimum support price (MSP), which will prove the “falsehood” spread by the Congress.

“Opposition should stop doing politics and also misleading farmers,” he said.

Yadav also said the contract farming already existed in many states, including Punjab and Haryana.

“We are not taking away the land of farmers,” he said, adding that the two Bills were only meant to harness the huge potential of the agriculture sector.

TMC leader Derek O’Brien demanded that the Bills should be sent to a select committee.

“These bills need to be debated in Parliament. You have the numbers to have your way and we have the right to have our say and to keep you on track of Parliamentary democracy. This is very very dangerous trend we are following. A select committee is not a hand break…it is there to contribute. I am going to move select committee,” he said.

The TMC leader said the states had not been consulted on these Bills and questioned the government’s tall promises and its credibility.

“The PM said the opposition is trying to mislead the farmers. Let us see what credibility you have to make these speeches. You promised to double farmers’ income by 2022. At the current rate, the farmer incomes would not double till 2028. I can also give a big talk,” he said.

“You gave a big lecture on ‘notebandi’. what has happened? After 50 minutes of announcing ‘notebandi’, Mamata Banerjee said withdraw this draconian decision. We told you but you did not listen,” he added.

Noting that the government promised two crore jobs every year, he said: “Now you have the highest unemployment. Your credibility is low to make promises.”

SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav said there seemed to be some compulsion that the ruling party did not want to discuss the bills and is in a hurry to pass them.

He asked how farmers would find corporations to sell their produce.

“It appears that this bill has not been drafted by you. A son of a farmer cannot draft such a bill. When you go back to your native place, the youth would ask you what were you doing when our death warrants were being issued in Parliament,” he asked.

Under the MSP, the government guarantees the procurement of crops such as wheat and paddy at minimum prices from farmers.

A third bill, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, that seeks to remove commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion, and potatoes from the list of essential commodities and will do away with the imposition of stock holding limits, is to be moved in the Rajya Sabha separately. PTI



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