Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Punjab ally Shiromani Akali Dal, resigned from her position on Thursday as farmers continue to protest against the Centre’s three agriculture bills. Her resignation came on the same day the Lok Sabha passed two of the bills.
The announcement was made in the Lok Sabha by Shiromani Akali Dal President and her husband Sukhbir Singh Badal as he opposed two of the bills. “The Shiromani Akali Dal is the party of the farmers,” he said. “We oppose the bills as they are anti-farmer. “I also announce that Harsimrat Kaur Badal will resign from the government.”
On Thursday evening, Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted: “I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter and sister.” Kaur held the portfolio of Food Processing Industries in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal said that she resigned to show support to the protesting farmers, ANI reported. “Thousands of farmers are on the streets,” she said. “I did not want to be part of the government that got the bills passed in the House without addressing the apprehensions of farmers.”
Sukhbir Badal, meanwhile, said that his party stood with the farmers and will do anything for them. “The next course of action will be taken by our party for which there will be a meeting,” he added.
The Centre had introduced the Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on Monday.
The first two bills were passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday. The third one was passed on Tuesday. Sukhbir Badal had on Tuesday voted against the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in the Lok Sabha. “Before introducing these bills, they should at least have consulted the parties that are essentially farmers’ parties and their allies,” he was quoted as saying by PTI. “Our minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, had expressed her reservations when the matter was taken up during a Cabinet meeting.”
The bills 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 in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana had on Monday staged protests against the bills and demanded that they be withdrawn immediately.
On Wednesday, the Shiromani Akali Dal had issued a whip to its Rajya Sabha members, asking them to vote against the bills. The Akali Dal had earlier supported the Centre’s decision but then claimed that it had not been consulted on the bills.
PM Modi says the bills will empower farmers
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Centre’s bills sought to empower farmers with new technology but they were being “confused” about the benefits.
“A lot of power is engaged in confusing the farmers,” Modi tweeted. “I assure my farmer brothers and sisters that the system of MSP [minimum support price] and government procurement will remain. These bills are really going to empower the farmers by giving them many more options.”
He added: “This agrarian reform will provide new opportunities for farmers to sell their produce, which will increase their profits. With this, our agriculture sector will get the benefit of modern technology, whereas the farmers will be empowered.”