10 central trade unions to support nation-wide farmers protest on Friday

10 central trade unions to support nation-wide farmers protest on Friday
Members of various farmers' organizations during a protest over agriculture related ordinances, in Amritsar, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. PTI

New Delhi: As many as 10 central trade union on Monday announced their support to the nation-wide protest on September 25 by peasants and farm workers to oppose passage of two agri bills in Parliament, saying the BJP government should stop anti-farmers measures.

The joint platform of central trade unions and sectoral federations declares its unstinted support to the initiative of Joint Platform of Peasants and Agricultural Workers Organisations the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee to hold countrywide protest and resistance on 25th September 2020, the central trade unions said in a joint statement.

"We also join them in protesting against the disastrous Electricity Amendment Bill 2020," the statement said.

The ten trade unions are NTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC.

Two key farm bills, dubbed as the biggest reform in agriculture by the government, were on Sunday passed by Rajya Sabha with voice vote.

The Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 have already been passed by Lok Sabha and will now go to the President for his assent before they are notified as laws.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed it as a "watershed moment" in the history of Indian agriculture, asserting that the bills will ensure a complete transformation of the farm sector and add impetus to the efforts to double the income of farmers.

The Congress and other opposition parties have slammed the bills as "death warrants" of farmers.

Central trade unions and sectoral federations have called upon workers and their unions of all affiliations and across the sectors to join actively in the programmes of protest and resistance being organised by peasants' organisations in and around their respective areas, the statement said.

The trade unions alleged that the proposed laws are aimed at completely restructuring the management of the agricultural economy including farm trade in total favour of the big-landlord corporate nexus and multinational trading cliques on agricultural produce.

"They virtually kill the rights and entitlements of the agricultural population. The Essential Commodities Act and related anti-hoarding, anti-black-marketing regulations are going to be curbed," it sad.

They are of the view that the virtual withdrawal of government's role in ensuring fair and remunerative prices for farmers' produce will pave the way for ultimate doing away with government procurement of agricultural produce with minimum support price.

In totality, peasant agriculture will be totally ruined, on which survival of more than 60 per cent population is dependent, the statement said.

The new measures are also aimed to facilitate profiteering by big players like Adani, Wilmar, Reliance, Walmart, Birla, ITC etc and also large trading companies, both foreign and domestic, it alleged.

The joint countrywide action on September 25 which may turn into total Bandh in Punjab and Haryana and series of blockades in every corner of the country, is therefore a necessary action to protect farmers, food security and the country's economy, the unions stated.

Opposition parties seek meeting with President

A day after two contentious farm bills were passed by Rajya Sabha amid a bedlam, a number of non-NDA parties wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind over the manner in which the government "pushed through its agenda" and urged him not to grant his assent to the proposed legislations.

According to sources, leaders of various political parties including the Congress, the Left parties, NCP, DMK, SP, Trinamool Congress and the RJD have in a memorandum to the President sought his intervention in the matter and asked him not to sign the bills.

The bills will become a law only after the President grants his assent to them.

The two key farm bills, dubbed by the government as the biggest reform in agriculture, were passed by Rajya Sabha on Sunday with voice vote amid unprecedented unruly scenes by protesting opposition MPs.

Some opposition members, ignoring the COVID-19 protocol, charged towards the podium of Deputy Chairman Harivansh, flung the rule book at him and tore official papers. They yanked his microphone and heckled him over their demand for a division of vote on their motion to refer the legislation to a select committee.

Sources said the opposition parties have described the manner in which the bills were passed in Rajya Sabha on Sunday as "murder of democracy" by the ruling BJP. They have also sought time from the President for a meeting, likely on Tuesday.

The Shiromani Akali Dal leadership will meet President Ram Nath Kovind separately on Monday to urge him not to sign on the bills.

Sources said the memorandum of opposition leaders has been sent to the President. Congress MP and noted lawyer Abhishek Singhvi is learnt to have framed the memorandum.

The opposition leaders wish to present their case in urging the President not to grant his assent to the bill after both the Houses of Parliament passed the two bills.

They are alleging that the bills are against the interest of farmers and seek to enslave farming at the hands of corporates. These will prove to be a "death knell" for farming, the opposition leaders claim.

The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 seeks to give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside the notified APMC market yards (mandis). This, the government says, is aimed at facilitating remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels.

Farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their produce under this Act, according to the government.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 seeks to give farmers the right to enter into a contract with agribusiness firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for the sale of future farming produce at a pre-agreed price.

It seeks to transfer the risk of market unpredictability from farmers to sponsors.