Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s resignation, a public warning from Punjab farmers?

Badal resigned as minister of food processing industries, to protest of Modi- government’s ‘anti-farmer’ liberalisation of the agricultural market. Will othes follow suit? 

Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s resignation

It was perhaps during the massive gathering of farmers protesting outside the residence of former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, at Badal village in Muktsar district, when his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal wrote her long letter of resignation as Union Minister of Food Processing Industries. She remains a Member of Parliament, and her party the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) remains an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre. However, this resignation is yet another public signal that the alliance is now fragile.

The Shiv Sena, another ally, had disassociated itself from the BJP and went on to form the government in the state of Maharashtra. The SAD too has made it clear that the party will respond to the mood in Punjab, and will oppose the legislation that the BJP says will “liberalise agricultural markets,” this rift between the two traditional allies exposes BJP’s proposed “reforms in the farm sector” as being anti-farmer. 

But politics remain the first priority for SAD which as announced by party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, and widely reported in the media, “The party will continue to support the government and the BJP, but will oppose ‘anti-farmer policies’.” According to the Hindustan Times, Badal has said that these proposals made by the BJP government, “have many provisions that go against farmers’ interests. We have repeatedly asked the government to please address the apprehensions of farmers, but the government has done nothing. Therefore, I oppose these bills,” Sukhbir Singh Badal, the MP from Ferozpur, said in Lok Sabha during the debate on 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, which replace similar ordinances, reported the HT. 

The government issued a communique on friday morning stating that, “The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has accepted the resignation of Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the Union Council of Ministers, with immediate effect, under clause (2) of Article 75 of the Constitution.” It added that “As advised by the Prime Minister, the President has directed that Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, Cabinet Minister, be assigned the charge of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, in addition to his existing portfolios.” Harsimrat Kaur Badal had tendered her resignation from the Cabinet on Thursday evening, and announced in on social media adding she proudly stood with farmers “as their daughter & sister,” 



The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has not yet explained why it wants to continue as an ally even though the government has not responded to their farmer related demands, all the SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said was “We have repeatedly asked the government that please address the apprehensions of farmers, but the government had done nothing. Therefore, I oppose these bills.”  

Sikander Singh Maluka, farm cell head and core committee member of SAD senior leader from the party has already suggested that SAD should quit central govt. According to the HT, the dharna by agitated farmers outside the residence of former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal entered its third day on Thursday. It is then that Maluka said the party should now quit being part of the Central government.  “As a whip has been issued, SAD’s five MPs (two in Lok Sabha and three in Rajya Sabha) are bound to vote against the controversial farm bills. The coalition dharma says an ally should quit the partnership, if it opts to vote against the bill moved by the government. There is a general feeling that quitting the ministerial berth in the Centre is the only option that Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal had,” Maluka, a confidant of the Badal family, told HT on Thursday. He was proven right within hours.

According to the HT report, on September 3, SAD released a video message of the Akali patriarch Badal stating the three ordinances (now bills) “favoured the farming community”. Badal alleged that Punjab  charged chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh had “misinterpreted” the bills as anti-farmers. However it was the powerful voice of the farmers themselves that forced SAD to finally act as it did.

The farmers fear that the so-called “assured purchase by the government” can be hijacked by the corporate sector, which in turn can monopolise agriculture to suit their profit making business plans.

The Key Features of The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, according to PRS india are:

  • Trade of farmers’ produce: The Ordinance allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce outside: (i) the physical premises of market yards run by market committees formed under the state APMC Acts and (ii) other markets notified under the state APMC Acts.  

  • Electronic trading: The Ordinance permits the electronic trading of scheduled farmers’ produce (agricultural produce regulated under any state APMC Act) in the specified trade area.  An electronic trading and transaction platform may be set up to facilitate the direct and online buying and selling of such produce through electronic devices and internet.  The following entities may establish and operate such platforms: (i) companies, partnership firms, or registered societies, having permanent account number under the Income Tax Act, 1961 or any other document notified by the central government, and (ii) a farmer producer organisation or agricultural cooperative society.

  • Market fee abolished: The Ordinance prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’.


The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

  • Regulation of food items: The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 empowers the central government to designate certain commodities (such as food items, fertilizers, and petroleum products) as essential commodities.  The central government may regulate or prohibit the production, supply, distribution, trade, and commerce of such essential commodities.  The Ordinance provides that the central government may regulate the supply of certain food items including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils, only under extraordinary circumstances.   These include: (i) war, (ii) famine, (iii) extraordinary price rise and (iv) natural calamity of grave nature.

  • Stock limit: The Ordinance requires that imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce must be based on price rise.  A stock limit may be imposed only if there is: (i) a 100% increase in retail price of horticultural produce; and (ii) a 50% increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items.   The increase will be calculated over the price prevailing immediately preceding twelve months, or the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower.



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