Unrest among farmers growing in Punjab, BJP ally Akali Dal has issued a whip to its MPs, asking that they vote against the three farm sector bills that will come up in the monsoon session of parliament. Calling the bills “anti-farmer”, the state’s farmers have demanded that they should be withdrawn and said any Punjab MP who supports the bills in parliament will not be allowed to enter villages. The BJP claims that the “far sighted” bills will boost agricultural produce and help farmers get better price for their produce. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who has also sought a pause on the bills, said the U-turn by the BJP ally is a “farce”.
Farmers across Punjab have been holding protests, demonstrations and road blocks over the recent weeks. Calling the bills “worse than coronavirus”, Harinder Singh, the general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal) said they would negatively affect farmers, arthiyas (commission agents) and farm labourers, if implemented.
“MPs who support the farm bills in parliament will not be allowed to enter villages and we will teach him a lesson,” Harinder Singh was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India today.
The Akali Dal, which earlier supported the Centre’s decision, has now contended that it was not consulted about the ordinances or bills. The party has appealed to the Centre not to present the three ordinances for approval in parliament until the reservations of the farmers are addressed.
“Before introducing these bills, they should at least have consulted the parties that are essentially farmers’ parties and their allies. Our minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, had expressed her reservations when the matter was taken up during a cabinet meeting,” said Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Mr Badal has voted against the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to deregulate food items, including cereals, pulses and onion. The bill — the fourth law in the government’s proposed farm sector reforms — was passed by a voice vote on Tuesday.
Today, the party’s legislators met the BJP chief JP Nadda, who later told reporters that the ally’s concerns have been addressed.
The Akali Dal has also said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had been exposed on the floor of the Lok Sabha, with a Union Minister pointing out that he was part of the consultative process for the ordinances. “It is now clear that you and your government supported the Agricultural Ordinances but are trying to lie your way out,” senior Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia has said.
In June, three agriculture-related ordinances were issued – the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020.
To convert them into laws in the current session, three bills on food and agriculture reform were presented in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
The proposed laws are expected to provide barrier-free trade for farmers’ produce outside notified farm mandis, and empower farmers to enter into agreements with private players for sale of agri-produce even before production.