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The parliamentary standing committee on agriculture, headed by BJP leader PC Gaddigoudar, was held with an agenda to select subjects for consideration for the next one year. (Priyanka Parashar/Mint)
The parliamentary standing committee on agriculture, headed by BJP leader PC Gaddigoudar, was held with an agenda to select subjects for consideration for the next one year. (Priyanka Parashar/Mint)

Opposition members raise farm laws issue in parliamentary panel meet

  • Opposition parties have urged the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture to speak to PM Narendra Modi to make changes in farm laws
  • The move is interesting because while it is outside the ambit of a parliament committee to demand such amendments

NEW DELHI: Continuing with its efforts to build pressure on the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) against the recently passed legislations related to agriculture sector, opposition parties have now urged the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make changes in these laws.

The move is interesting because while it is outside the ambit of a parliament committee to demand amendments in the law already passed by the Parliament, members of the standing committee, especially opposition members, believe that it would help make the Union government understand the urgency of the issue with the continuing protests by farmers.

“We said in the meeting that while we can continue deliberations on key agriculture related issues, the three farm bills are the ones that farmers are protesting on right now. We then told the chairman that our only request is that he should speak to prime minister to request on our behalf to make changes in the farm laws," a senior opposition member from the panel said requesting anonymity.

The development is significant because the three farm laws have been at the centre of political opposition from several parties particularly Congress and former NDA member Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) which have been leading farmer protests in Punjab, western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana demanding changes in the laws. The passage of the law also witnessed the resignation of senior SAD and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the Cabinet. This is the first time since NDA came to power under Modi that a policy decision has forced an alliance partner to walk out from the Union government.

The issue was raised by some members of opposition in a meeting of the standing committee on agriculture on Tuesday, the first since passage of farm laws in the monsoon session of Parliament. The meeting was held with an agenda to select subjects for consideration for the next one year as parliamentary committees were reconstituted last month.

“We feel the main thing required is a formal guarantee in the law on protecting Minimum Support Price (MSP) which is not there right now. We requested the chairman that if the government can say that in the Bill then the protests that are happening can slow down. We know that the bills are passed already but the standing committee is one of the highest parliamentary forums and so we are hopeful something will happen," the member quoted above added. To be sure, PM Modi has categorically said that MSP would continue and the passage of the three laws will not stop the government from announcing MSP on farm produce.

Interestingly, the standing committee on agriculture is chaired by senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from Karnataka, PC Gaddigoudar. The meeting of the committee on Tuesday was attended by 12 members including the chairman and, according to people aware of the development, the panel members from Punjab were the most vocal in their request for reviewing the bill during the meeting.

The issue being raised in the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture is significant because even during the discussion on the bills in both Houses of Parliament, several lawmakers including those from friendly parties had demanded that the bill be sent to the committee for further scrutiny. The passage of the three farm bills led to a deep political divide on the issue costing the NDA one of its oldest allies in SAD which walked away in protest.

“If we look at what is happening, BJP is the only political party which is supporting these laws in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, all other political parties have opposed it and farmers are protesting against these laws. The government should consider changes in the laws," said those in the know of development.

The three farm bills are—the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, he Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020.

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