Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday accused the Modi government of undemocratically repealing the three farm laws, just the way they were enacted last year.
Addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting in Delhi, she said the discipline and dedication of protesting farmers has forced an “arrogant government to climbdown”.
In 2020, Parliament had passed the legislation via a voice vote, drawing widespread criticism that it had rushed through the laws without a proper discussion.
On November 19, on the occasion of Guru Parab, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his government would repeal the laws during the Winter Session of Parliament after a year of protests by farmers. On November 29, the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021, was cleared within minutes of it being introduced in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Opposition leaders objected to the lack of discussion, pointing out that a debate was allowed on the five or six occasions when a law had been scrapped.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Gandhi underlined the Congress’ support for farmers demanding legal guarantee for minimum support price of crops and the compensation for the families of those who died during protests.
“Let us remember that more than 700 farmers have been martyred in the past twelve months and honor their sacrifice,” she added.
In her address, the Congress chief also spoke about rising prices of essential goods, including edible oils, fuel and vegetables. “I cannot understand how and why the Modi government is so insensitive and continues to deny the seriousness of the problem,” she said. “It seems impervious to the sufferings of the people.”
She added that the steps taken to reduce petrol, diesel, and cooking gas prices are totally insufficient and inadequate. The government, she said, has instead passed on the responsibility for duty cuts to financially strapped state governments.
“And all this while, the Centre persists with huge public expenditure on vain glorious projects,” she said, while making a veiled reference to the 20,000-crore Central Vista Project.
Gandhi accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government of selling off national assets like banks, insurance companies, public sector enterprises, railways and airports.
“First, the prime minister destroyed the economy with his demonetisation move of November 2016,” she continued. “He is continuing on that disastrous path, but calling it monetisation. Now, he is dismantling the public sector built up over the past seventy years with strategic, economic and social objectives in mind.”
The Congress president asked how Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will be employed if public sector companies and institutions continue to be privatised. “Already lakhs upon lakhs of people, mostly young, have joined and continue to join the ranks of the unemployed,” she added.
Nagaland civilian killings
Referring to the deaths of 14 civilians who were killed in the Nagaland’s Mon district in separate incidents of firing by the security forces on Saturday and Sunday, Gandhi said the Centre’s expressing regret was not enough.
On Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament that the Centre regrets the killings and that all agencies have been asked to ensure that such civilian casualties do not occur while acting against insurgents in the future.
“Justice for the families of the victims has to be ensured,” Gandhi said, adding that credible steps be must be taken to prevent such tragedies.
In her address, Gandhi said the Congress will seek a full-fledged discussion in Parliament on the border situation and on India’s ties with its neighbours.
“It is extraordinary that the Parliament has been given no opportunity whatsoever so far to have a discussion on the challenges we continue to face on our borders,” she said. “Such a discussion would have also been an opportunity to demonstrate a collective will and resolve.”
India and China have been locked in a border standoff since their troops clashed in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June last year. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash. China put the number of casualties on its side at four.
Suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha MPs
The Congress president also raised the matter of suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha MPs.
The MPs were suspended on November 29 for their allegedly unruly and violent conduct during the Monsoon Session in August. The session was marked by disruptions in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha because of the Pegasus spyware row and the farm laws.
On Wednesday, Gandho said, “The outrageous suspension of 12 Opposition Rajya Sabha MPs for the entire Winter session is unprecedented and shocked us all.”
She added that the suspension violates both the Constitution and the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States.
The Congress leader expressed solidarity with MPs Chaya Verma, Phulo Devi Netam, Ripun Bora, Nasir Hussein, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Rajamani Patel, who have been sitting by the Gandhi statue every day in protest.