Popular acceptance of three controversial farm laws being repealed now was always in doubt considering the manner they were rushed through in last year’s monsoon session of the Rajya Sabha.
Passage of important Bills in the Upper House has for many years faced rough weather because of the doubtful majority of the Government. No wonder, many laws like the farm laws faced tough questioning by the Opposition.
The Opposition in the Rajya Sabha wanted the farm laws referred to a Select Committee. Its members from the Congress, Trinamul Congress and Left parties were keen to move amendments for that, but they were rejected on technical grounds.
Brought to Parliament at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the laws could not be discussed to the extent their subjects required. There was tearing of papers, shouting and members protesting from the well of the House, although there was a stormy three and a half hours debate on the Bills.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had assured on behalf of the Government that procurement of agricultural produce would continue on MSP. The laws were intended to allow farmers access wider markets, and come out of the stranglehold of mandis and middlemen, the Minister tried to tell the House.
But the Opposition was not convinced by his arguments. The Elders argued that a law concerning 60 to 70 per cent of the country’s population should not be rushed through, and be referred to a Parliamentary Committee so that views of all stakeholders like farmers and farm experts could be secured.
Several Bills in the past had come out stronger and with acceptance by the whole House when they were referred to Select Committees. The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 was one of them.
Objecting to the Bills being rushed, the Elders said that Covid was raging and there were problems like Chinese activity on border. This was no time for the Bills which sought to alter the manner agriculture was pursued in the country.
But the House sat beyond its pandemic-curtailed working hours, and took up the Bills’ passage, after a hurried consent to continue work.
Such were the proceedings during the passage of the Bills that eight Rajya Sabha members including Trinamul Congress leader Derek O’Brien were on the next day suspended from the House for the remainder of the Monsoon Session for their conduct. The Opposition followed it up with a general boycott of the House for remaining working days.
For the first time in the history of Rajya Sabha, a motion for removal of the Deputy Chairman was given due to the manner the Bills were passed. Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu rejected it “because it was a motion, not a resolution.”
The three Bills, Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 had easy passage in the Lok Sabha.