Thursday, May 30, 2024

Harsimrat Badal resigns from Cabinet on farmers’ bills

Union food processing minister and Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal has resigned from the Modi cabinet in protest against the farmers’ related bills that the government has introduced in the Parliament.

Harsimrat Badal’s exit as dramatic as she walked out of the Lok Sabha this evening when the House was taking up discussions on the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce Bill 2020 and the Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Bill.

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) relies heavily on farmers’ support who are up in arms over three bills. Jat Sikh farmers, who own most of the agricultural land in Punjab, are a key support base of the Akalis.

The three ordinances are in for approval in Parliament. The first of the three ordinances, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 was cleared by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The three Bills in question are The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. 

The Essential Commodities bill is intended to remove restrictions on stocking food produce. It is said that this bill would encourage hoardings by big farmers.

However, it is the other two bills which are real bone of contentions. The government claims that it would enable Punjab’s farmers to boost their incomes by getting better prices through the legislation of contract farming. But the protestors believe it would only help the corporatisation of the agriculture sector and reduce farmers’ bargaining power.

Further, while previously only licensed middlemen were allowed to trade in a mandi, the new ordinance could allow anybody with a PAN card to trade within a designated trade area. The waiving of a market fee on transactions in trade areas has also not met with approval.

Thus, while the reforms are welcomed by economists, and that it could boost agricultural productivity, it might not benefit the average farmer.

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