The House also rejected the demand of several Opposition parties to send the two bills to a Rajya Sabha Select Committee for greater scrutiny.
Amid loud protests by members of opposition, the Rajya Sabha on Sunday passed two agricultural related bills, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.
This is the first time in the monsoon session of Parliament, called amidst COVID-19 pandemic, that the house saw such scenes of pandemonium. The protest started after the Deputy Chairman Harivansh, rejected opposition’s demand to end the day’s proceedings at the scheduled one pm and asked the Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to continue his reply. Enraged opposition members marched into the well of the house, many leaving their seats in a floor above in visitors galleries to raise slogans, papers were torn in the well. For several minutes Rajya Sabha TV’s audio was cut. The house was adjourned at 1:30 pm for ten minutes.
When the house met again at 1:41 pm, the protests continued, with opposition trying to drown the voice of the Deputy Chairman. A strong contingent of over marshals stood in two concentric circles around the chair to ensure that none of the protesting members could reach close to the chair. The calls for vote on various amendments moved by the opposition members were ignored.
The primary concerns raised by the opposition parties is that these two bills takes away the protective cover of Minimum Support Price for the farmers and allows free run to big corporate houses in the agricultural sector.
The opposition parties had demanded that the bills be sent to a select committee of Parliament, for wider consultations with stakeholders and further Parliamentary scrutiny that can not be covered in a debate of a few hours. The Congress, Trinamool Congress, Telangana Rashtriya Samithi, Samajwadi Party, DMK, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Aam Aadmi Party and the two Left parties vehemently opposed the bill. Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa said his party will not sign the “death warrant” of farmers.
Among the BJP allies and friendly parties, JD (U) and YSR Congress supported the bill. The AIADMK spoke against the bill but hoped that the government would allay the concerns of farmers. The Biju Janata Dal MP Amar Patnaik said that the bill has good intent but ignores the implementation problems. Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut said that Prime Minister Modi in a speech outside the house said that the farmers are being misled on the basis of rumours. “Is it on the basis of this very rumour that your cabinet minister resigned,” he said referring to the exit of Akali Dal leader and minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
Explainer | Why are the Agriculture Bills being opposed
The two bills were passed by voice vote.
“The dictatorial attitude of the Chair in not wanting to get a sense of the House, which is the convention to extend the session beyond the scheduled 1 pm, led to bedlam & chaos. The anti-farmer Bills were passed in the din without voting. Why the tearing urgency? On whose orders?,” Congress Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha, Jairam Ramesh said.
Parliamentary party floor leader of Trinamool Congress Party Derk O’ Brien in a video message denied the charge made by BJP that he tore the rule book in the well of the house. “The bottom line is that opposition wanted a vote on the farmers bill and BJP did not want to vote because it did not have numbers. This story does not end here. BJP told you it is historic day, but it is a sad day for Parliamentary democracy,” he said.