The Ministry of Agriculture, on its first day back in Lok Sabha, answering members’ questions about farm laws, tried hard to defend farm laws, its provisions and the urgency in passing the same in times of a pandemic.
Kanimozhi Karunanidhi of DMK was among members who questioned the government on whether it failed to consult with farmers before passing the laws, what was the urgency of getting the laws passed during a pandemic, whether it failed to assure MSP and land ownership to farmers and so on.
The Agriculture Minister, Narendra Singh Tomar, in his written response stated that the government has been in discussion with stakeholders over agri-reforms for years.
Justifying the urgency of passing the laws, Tomar stated that there has been a constant demand for reforming the agriculture marketing system so that farmers can sell their produce for better price realisation. Why the laws were brought during the pandemic, the Minister said, “During Covid-19 lockdown due to disruption of markets and supply chains, there was utmost need to allow free direct marketing outside the mandis to facilitate the farmers in selling their produce near to farm gate at remunerative prices”.
The Ministry further stated, “Government of India vide letter dated 04.04.2020 had requested States/ UTs to facilitate the process of direct marketing for farmers/ group of farmers, FPOs and cooperatives by limiting the regulation under State APMC Act to within physical premises of the notified markets only, while allowing the direct buying facility by bulk buyers/ processors/ big retailers etc outside mandi premises with minimum or without requirement of any licensing or registration process or as decided by States/ UTs.”
On the issue of MSP, Tomar stated that the laws in question have no bearing on the policy and process of procurement on MSP. “The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, is for farming agreement of farmers’ produce between farmers and to sponsors and not about contract of farmers’ land,” it stated.
The response states that the two farmer related laws (apart from Essential Commodities amendment) are intended to provide an ecosystem where the farmers can enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale of farmers’ produce which facilitates remunerative prices to farmers through competitive alternative channels for selling their produce.
Another set of MPs asked for reasoning behind empowering executive officers including Sub Divisional Magistrates and Collectors to adjudicate upon issues arising from disputes under these laws and questioned why civil courts jurisdiction has been barred. Tomar justified this move in his written response saying that directing disputes to executive officers is a quick and cost effective dispute resolution mechanism. He further stated that these officers perform the functions relating to land revenue including maintaining land records and resolving the disputes relating to crops and land. Thus, they have field experiences relating to agriculture & land disputes as well as judicial. The government thus found them to be more equipped to adjudicate on these disputes.
Day 2 of Budget Session
As the Rajya Sabha was about to begin the sessions, Opposition parties including the Congress, Left, TMC and DMK staged a walkout while demanding suspension of business of the day to discuss the farmers’ agitation, which was rejected by Chairman Venkaiah Naidu. Owing to which, the house was adjourned four times. Naidu maintained his stand on passage of farm laws in the house, “I’ve repeated that there was discussion threadbare in the House on farm laws. It is a wrong impression being created that there was no discussion. With regard to voting, people may have their own arguments but every party had completed their part & made suggestions.” Naidu pleaded with members to hold orderly discussions during the session but the house was eventually adjourned until the next day.
Meanwhile, Congress party leaders in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary, Koddikunil Suresh gave adjournment notice motion and in the second half of the day, the house resumed amidst loud slogans of “vapas lo vapas lo kisan virodhi kanoon vapas lo” (retract farm laws) opposition parties against farm laws and hence even the lower house was adjourned for the day.
The answers may be read here