Oppn steps up attack against Centre over farm reform bills

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New Delhi: The farm reform bills passed by Parliament were “the need of 21st century India”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted on Monday, and accused the Opposition of misleading farmers, saying they “feel control slipping away”.

Modi’s assertion came as a number of parties stepped up attack against the Centre, and wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him not to grant his assent to the proposed legislations.

Also Monday, eight Opposition members, including TMC leader Derek O’Brien and Sanjay Singh of AAP, were suspended from Rajya Sabha for the rest of the monsoon session of Parliament for “unruly behaviour” during the passage of two farm bills on Sunday, but they refused to leave the House, leading to frequent adjournments, and fresh protests – inside and outside the Parliament.

The Congress announced that it will launch a nationwide agitation against the farm bills passed by Parliament and also initiate a campaign for collecting two crore signatures of farmers and the poor against these proposed legislations.

With Opposition parties dubbing these contentious legislations as “anti-farmers” and protests continuing in states like Punjab and Haryana, Modi strongly defended these measures, saying farmers will now have the freedom to sell their produce at a place and price of their choice.

Attacking critics, he said a “clique” of people exploited farmers for long as they remained in shackles of rules regulating the sale of their produce, and asserted that this needed to change, which his government has done.

“After these historical changes in the agricultural sector, some people are losing their control of it. So now these people are trying to mislead farmers on MSP (minimum support price). They are the same people who sat for years on the recommendations of the Swaminathan committee on MSP,” Modi said, in an apparent swipe at the Congress.

A motion for the suspension of the eight including Rajeev Satav, Syed Nasir Hussain and Ripun Bora (all Congress), Dola Sen (TMC), K K Ragesh and Elamaram Kareen (all CPI-M) was moved by the government and approved by a voice vote in the House. The suspended MPs along with other Opposition members held a protest near the Gandhi statue in the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the government hiked the minimum price for buying six rabi crops, including wheat, by up to six per cent, as it sought to send a strong message to farmers on continuation of MSP-based procurement system.

The MSP of wheat, the biggest crop of rabi season, has been hiked by Rs 50 to Rs 1,975 per quintal, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said in Lok Sabha.

Besides, MSPs of lentil (masoor), gram, barley, safflower and mustard/ rapeseed have been increased.

Farmer groups in Punjab, Haryana and some other states are also protesting the two bills — 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.