Bharatiya Janata Party National President Jagat Prakash Nadda on Wednesday said the three agriculture bills introduced by the Centre in Parliament will boost the farming sector and help farmers get a better price for their produce, amid vehement protests from Opposition parties and farmers’ groups.
“All these three bills that are being discussed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha... they are very far-sighted,” Nadda said at a press conference at the party headquarters in Delhi. “We are passing the bills keeping this farsightedness in mind.”
The Narendra Modi-led government had on Monday introduced the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers Empowerment and Protection Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill to replace the ordinances promulgated earlier.
Farmers in Haryana and Punjab have demanded that the bills be withdrawn. The ordinances seek to include private players in agriculture and promote hurdle-free sale of produce, but the farmers argue that they will bring about corporate dominance. Farmers’ unions have said the legislations were “corporate agriculture bills” which were framed to suit “big corporates who seek to dominate the Indian food and agriculture business”.
Agriculture and markets are also state subjects, so the ordinances appear to encroach on state functions. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had opposed the ordinances, saying they had not been discussed with his state.
On Tuesday, Sukhbir Badal, the president of the National Democratic Alliance ally Shiromani Akali Dal, voted against the bill, saying that his party was not consulted before the bill was brought to Parliament, The Tribune reported. Nadda said they were talking to the Akali Dal to address their concerns.
At the press conference, the BJP chief said when the Essential Commodities Act was passed in 1955, there was a shortage of food grain, which has now changed. The Act was needed to regulate food production then but now the government was trying to deregulate the bill to bring “smoothness” in production, especially during “extraordinary” circumstances such as flood, famine and war. He added that the bill would allow private sector to invest in agriculture.
Nadda further said that the Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce [Promotion And Facilitation] Bill was made to help farmers sell their produce easily. “Currently, food produce is sold at grain markets,” he said. “The bill would allow farmers to sell their produce outside this market and decide their own prices.”
On the Farmers [Empowerment and Protection] Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, he said that in contract farming, there was a risk that the buyer could become the owner of the land. To avoid this, model agreements have been formed, which would be based on the produce and not the land, he added.
Further, on a question about the minimum support price, Nadda said that it would continue to stay.
The BJP chief also criticised the Congress for opposing the agriculture reforms, saying that it was nothing but politics. “The BJP is doing what the Opposition party had promised in its manifesto,” he said.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh called the Essential Commodities [Amendment] Bill a conspiracy by the Centre to destroy Punjab and its farmers. He said he will move the court against it, ANI reported.