Don't sign farm bills, passed unconstitutionally in complete disregard of par'l norms: Oppn to Prez

Congress MP Ghulam Nabi Azad and other opposition leaders address media personnel after a meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind over the passage of recent farm bills in the Parliament, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (PTI Photo/Arun Sharma)

New Delhi: Stepping up the offensive against the government over the passage of farm bills, 18 opposition parties on Wednesday urged President Ram Nath Kovind not to sign the contentious bills and alleged that they were passed "unconstitutionally" in "complete disregard" of parliamentary norms.

In a meeting with the president on behalf of these 18 non-NDA parties, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said he has requested the President to return the bills, and only give his assent after they have been passed after following proper rules and procedures. 

Narrating the manner in which the two farm bills were passed in Rajya Sabha on Sunday, Azad told the President that the bills were pushed through the House without taking up the five resolutions moved by the opposition MPs and two separate motions demanding the reference of the agriculture marketing related bills to a select or standing committee of Parliament.  

"The President gave me a patient hearing and said he would look into the issue," Azad told reporters after the meeting. The 18 opposition parties have already submitted a memorandum to the President on Monday.

The opposition parties have boycotted Parliament proceedings against alleged violation of procedures by the government while passing the farm bills.  It has laid down three specific conditions to end the boycott --the government should bring bills to ensure that no private player buys foodgrains from farmers below the minimum support price, and the Central and state governments should ensure procurement above the MSP. 

They have also sought fixing of MSP as per recommendations of the Swaminathan report.

Among the parties opposing the bills are -Congress, CPI-M, CPI, TMC, NCP, Samajwadi Party, Shiv Sena, RJD, DMK, TRS, AAP, IUML, Kerala Congress (M) and Loktantrik Janata Dal. 

'The Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020' were passed in Rajya Sabha on Sunday amid the ruckus by some opposition members, who were protesting the passage of these bills, which now await presidential assent.  

"The manner in which all limits were crossed and rules, regulations and procedures of the Constitution were thrown to the winds in Parliament, the temple of democracy. We have told the President not to sign the bill. 

"The bills are unconstitutional. The President should return them so that fresh discussions can be held and the bills should come through a proper route, so that amendments can be taken up during discussions and voting can be held on the resolutions that the opposition brought," he said.  

He said the interests of farmers, who are the backbone of India as they provide foodgrains to the country with their hard labour, should have been taken care before bringing the bills.

"This government should have talked to all political parties and leaders of farmer organisations across the country before bringing a law regarding farmers.  "Unfortunately, the government neither sent this bill to a select committee or a standing committee. Had this been done, this would have been a very good bill and would have benefited the farmers," he said.  

Claiming that the numbers were in the favour of the Opposition, Azad said, "unfortunately, the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman got the bills passed without listening to the voice of the opposition...The opposition is not responsible for the ruckus and the government is responsible for it." 

No one was allowed to move the resolutions moved by opposition parties and no division of votes was done, he added.

Eight opposition members were suspended from the house due to their "unruly behaviour" during the passage of bills, after the government brought a motion which was passed in the Upper House by voice vote.  Following this the opposition parties announced the boycott of the House proceedings.  

The opposition had also brought a resolution of 'no confidence' against Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh and for his removal from the post, which was rejected by Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.  

The farm bills have triggered widespread protests, especially in states like Punjab and Haryana, where farmers and farmer organisations have taken to the streets while opposing the move.  

Earlier in the day, opposition MPs also took out a silent protest march against the farm bills inside Parliament house complex and walked holding placards from Mahatma Gandhi's statue to B R Ambedkar's statue.  

The government has claimed that these bills are to ensure that farmers get better prices for their produce without being subject to the regulations of mandis, and agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar has said the MSP mechanism for farmers will continue. 

Also, the proposed laws would not encroach upon the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Acts of the states, and will increase competition and promote private investment which will help in the development of farm infrastructure and generate employment, the minister has said.

The proposed legislations will open more choices for farmers, reduce marketing costs, and help them get better prices, he said. 

It will also help farmers of regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers in areas with shortages at lower prices, he added.  

However, the opposition feels that the states will lose revenue as they will not be able to collect 'mandi fees' if farmers sell their produce outside registered APMC markets.  

Farmer organisations and opposition parties allege that the law is framed to suit "big corporates who seek to dominate the Indian food and agriculture business", and will weaken the negotiating power of farmers. They also feel that big private companies, exporters, wholesalers, and processors may get an edge.

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