New Delhi: Parliament on Monday passed the bill to repeal the three contentious agricultural laws at the centre of protests by farmers for over a year with the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha giving their approval in quick succession amid an uproar.
Though the repeal bill was passed by voice vote within minutes of its introduction in both the Houses on the first day of the Winter session, opposition members continued their protest demanding a discussion on farmers' issues, including legal sanctity to Minimum Support Price (MSP) of crops and compensation to families of farmers who died during the year-long agitation.
The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 now awaits the assent of President Ram Nath Kovind for the formal withdrawal of the three laws against which farmers have been protesting at Delhi borders.
Terming the repeal of the farm laws a victory of the protesters, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) called an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the future course of action as leaders from Punjab unions asked the Centre to hold discussions and give an assurance on other demands, including a legal guarantee on MSP, in Parliament on November 30.
Introducing the repeal bill in the two Houses, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept his word as the government brought the bill on the very first day of the Winter session of Parliament.
Stating that the prime minister has shown a big heart by announcing the repeal of the laws on Guru Nanak Jayanti on November 19, Tomar sought the support of the members in its passage without a discussion, noting that both the government and the opposition are in favour of repealing the three laws.
He also attacked the Congress for adopting a "double standard" on the laws, as its own election manifesto talked about the need for reforms in the farm sector.
Reacting to the accusation by the opposition of not allowing a discussion, Tomar told reporters there was unanimity on the issue as both the government and opposition parties wanted to nullify the legislations.
Outside Parliament, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that repealing of the three farm laws without a debate shows that the government is "terrified" of having a discussion and knows that it has done something wrong.
Tomar, however, suggested that a discussion on the bill could have started in the Lok Sabha but protests by opposition parties ruled it out.
Speaker Om Birla repeatedly told opposition members that he was ready for initiating a discussion if they went back to their seats, Tomar noted.
The SKM, an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions, rued the absence of a discussion in Parliament.
This is a victory for us and a historic day. We want withdrawal of cases against farmers. We want a committee to be formed on the legal guarantee of MSP for crops. The Centre has time till tomorrow (Tuesday) to reply to our demands. We have called an emergency meeting of SKM on Wednesday to discuss future course of action, farmer leaders told a press conference
The air at the protest sites at three Delhi border points – Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri – was filled with chants and slogans as farmers danced to the tunes of Bhangra and Punjabi songs. At Singhu border, farmers also showered flower petals at each other to celebrate the victory of the movement.
Later, the SKM in a statement said that the repeal of farm laws is the first major victory of the farmers' movement while other important demands are still pending.
History has been made today in India when the anti-farmer central farm laws got repealed. However, the development was marred by the fact that no debate was allowed on the repeal Bill in Parliament."
On Monday, Tomar introduced the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021, which stated that "Even though only a group of farmers are protesting against these laws, the Government has tried hard to sensitise the farmers on the importance of the Farm Laws and explain the merits through several meetings and other forums."
Without taking away the existing mechanisms available to farmers, new avenues were provided for the trade of their produce, the copy of the Bill said, noting that the laws have been stayed by the Supreme Court.
"As we celebrate the 75th Year of Independence- 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav', the need of the hour is to take everyone together on the path of inclusive growth and development," the Bill said.
On November 19, in a special address to the nation, Prime Minister Modi announced that all three farm laws will be repealed in the Winter session and had said these laws were brought for the welfare of farmers, especially small farmers, but his government could not explain the benefits to some farmers despite its efforts.
In the Lok Sabha, the opposition entered the Well of the House demanding a debate on the bill and shouted slogans.
On opposition members' demand, Speaker Om Birla said: "You want debate, I am ready to allow debate when there is order in the House. But if you come to the Well, how can there be a debate."
Birla said a discussion was not possible when the MPs were standing in the Well holding placards.
However, the opposition members did not pay heed to the Speaker's appeal and continued their protests.
Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said since the bill is listed for consideration and passage, why is there no discussion.
He accused the government of taking the House for a ride. As the turmoil continued, the Speaker took a voice vote and declared the bill passed.
In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu rejected notices given by the Congress and other opposition MPs under rule 267 seeking setting aside of the business to discuss farmer issues and adjourned proceedings briefly as opposition members persisted with their demand.
Later, the bill was taken up and Deputy Chairman Harivansh allowed Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge to speak briefly.
Kharge was of the view that the government has taken back the three farm laws in view of the forthcoming elections in five states after reviewing the results of the recent bypolls.
Rahul Gandhi told reporters the repeal of the laws is a success of farmers and also of the country.
"What is unfortunate is how the bills have been repealed, without any discussion, without any conversation. We wanted to have a discussion about forces behind these bills because these bills do not just reflect the view of the prime minister, these bills reflect the forces behind the prime minister and that is what we wanted to discuss," he said.
"We wanted to discuss MSP (issue), we wanted to discuss the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, we wanted to discuss the 700 farmers who died in this agitation and unfortunately that discussion has not been allowed," the former Congress chief said.
It is a reflection of the fact that this government is "terrified" of having these discussions and "wants to hide".
What is the point of Parliament if discussions are not allowed? he asked while National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said passage of of the repeal Bill had become a new model of democracy for a new India.
"Passed without discussion; repealed without discussion. A new model of democracy for a new India," Omar tweeted.
Shortly before the Winter session commenced, Rahul Gandhi also took to Twitter to say Sunrise in Parliament must be in the name of farmers today.
"Today in Parliament sunrise should be in the name of the annadata' (Aaj sansad mein annadata ke naam ka suraj ugana hai), he said using the hashtags #MSP and #FarmLaws.
Congress MPs led by party chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi also staged a protest in front of Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Parliament complex over the issue of farm laws.