Three Farm Laws repealed by both Houses in a hurry

Bill clears Lok Sabha in just 4 minutes; short discussion in Rajya Sabha

New Delhi: The three controversial agricultural reform laws -- the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance, Farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 -- that have been the issue of heated debate and intense discussion for over a year now -- were on Monday repealed by Parliament with hardly any talk on the matter. The government on Monday withdrew the three contentious farm laws through a single bill in Parliament, paving the way for a resolution of the year-long friction with farmers. The Farm Laws Repeal Bill 2021 to withdraw the three farm laws was introduced and passed in just four minutes in the Lok Sabha on the very first day of the Winter Session, though in the Rajya Sabha it was passed after a short discussion. While supporting the Repeal Bill, the Opposition wanted to have a longer discussion on the farm laws and felt that the time allotted was not sufficient.

Given the boiling political situation in states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, which go to the polls early next year and where the BJP has a lot at stake, the government was in a tearing hurry to resolve the matter at the earliest. Hence, the bill to repeal the three laws were rushed through, ignoring the demand by the Opposition for a wider discussion. The government’s view was that since the Opposition was demanding the repeal of the three laws and had no objection to their withdrawal, there was no need for a discussion.

In the Lok Sabha, the Repeal Bill was tabled at 12.06 pm and passed by 12.10 pm despite the vociferous demand from the Opposition benches for a discussion. The Opposition members in the Lok Sabha pointed that earlier too when the laws were scrapped, discussions did take place on them. “Since 2014 at least six laws and more than 14 bills have been repealed after discussion. This too should be discussed,” said Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. However, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla felt the situation in the House was not conducive for a discussion due to the protests and noise and the bill was passed by voice vote.

In the Rajya Sabha, the situation was different. After lunch, when the Upper House resumed functioning, deputy chairman Harivansh allowed a short discussion, giving Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge permission to speak for two minutes, which the Opposition felt was not enough to express their views. While Mr Kahrge said no party had any objection to the withdrawal of the laws, he accused the government of withdrawing the legislation only due to electoral compulsions. As he tried to raise the issue of the deaths of 700 farmers, he was cut short by the Chair for exceeding the two minutes allotted to him. Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar was then called to move the motion to pass the bill.

“We have come here to repeal the laws, the government is ready and the Opposition has been demanding it. Therefore, there is no need to discuss it and the Repeal Bill should be passed,” said Mr Tomar, and the bill was passed by voice vote.

Unable to express their views on the issue, the Opposition vented out its anger outside Parliament. “What is unfortunate is how the bills have been repealed without any discussion, without any conversation. We wanted to have a conversation about the forces behind these bills, because these bills do not just reflect the view of the Prime Minister, these bills reflect the power behind the Prime Minister, the power of people and forces behind the Prime Minister and that is what we wanted to discuss, who actually is behind these bills? What are the forces that are behind these three bills? We wanted to discuss MSP. We wanted to discuss Lakhimpur Kheri. We wanted to discuss the 700 farmers who died in this agitation, and unfortunately, that discussion has not been allowed. This is a reflection of the fact that the government is terrified of having this discussion. The government wants to hide. The government does not have the guts to stand up for its action, and this is unfortunate,” said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

“Modi I (2014-19): Repealing and Amending Bill 2017 was one instance. Six MPs participated in the discussion. A fig leaf of democracy then. Some shame. Modi II (2019-today): #FarmLaws Repeal Bill 2021 taken up and passed. NO debate allowed. Not even a fig leaf of democracy. SHAMELESS,” tweeted TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien.

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