Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the passage of the contentious farming bills was “a watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture”. Modi said the bills would add impetus to the efforts to double income of farmers and ensure “greater prosperity” for them.

The Rajya Sabha on Sunday passed the Farmers’ and Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. The bills were passed by voice vote amid uproar by the Opposition, who alleged the ordinances are “anti-farmer”.

Farmers across the country have also been vehemently opposing them, arguing the new agricultural policies would lead to them losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations.

But the Centre has repeatedly promised that the bills would boost agriculture activity and benefit the farmers. In a series of tweets on Sunday, Modi assured the farmers that the bills would not tinker with the existing system of minimum support price. “Government procurement will continue,” Modi said. “We are here to serve our farmers. We will do everything possible to support them and ensure a better life for their coming generations.”

The prime minister added that the new ordinances would facilitate farmers’ access to “futuristic technology”. “Our agriculture sector is in desperate need of latest technology that assists the industrious farmers,” Modi said. “Now, with the passage of the bills, our farmers will have easier access to futuristic technology that will boost production and yield better results. This is a welcome step.”

“Congratulations to our hardworking farmers on the passage of key bills in Parliament, which will ensure a complete transformation of the agriculture sector as well as empower crores of farmers,” the prime minister added. “For decades, the Indian farmer was bound by various constraints and bullied by middlemen. The bills passed by Parliament liberate the farmers from such adversities. These bills will add impetus to the efforts to double income of farmers and ensure greater prosperity for them.”

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‘Opposition should apologise’

Chaos descended in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday as the critical bills on the agricultural sector were up for vote. At one point, the telecast of the proceedings was muted as members of opposition parties gathered inside the well of the House in protest. After a short adjournment, deputy chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh decided to put the bills to a voice vote. But the demonstrations against the bills continued inside the Rajya Sabha even after the session ended as Singh did not agree for a division of votes.

Bharatiya Janata Party President JP Nadda scorned at the behaviour of opposition leaders and claimed they were the ones who were anti-farmer, ANI reported. “Instead of being part of the process, they tried to obstruct the liberation of farmers,” Nadda said. “BJP condemns their act.”

Nadda added that the behaviour of opposition leaders was unfortunate. “They violated the protocols, Chairman will take note of it and take action,” the BJP president said. “The democratic system should function smoothly, we’ll request Chairman to take steps for the same.”

Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi claimed the Opposition murdered democracy by creating a ruckus in the Rajya Sabha. “We condemn this,” he said. “This is an insult to people’s mandate. Congress and the Trinamool Congress think they are the ‘Badshahs’ [kings]. The ruling party and the government will not budge to this.”

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh praised the Narendra Modi government for ensuring the passage of the two bills. “With the passing of two landmark agriculture Bills in Rajya Sabha today, India has cemented the strong foundation for ‘Atmanirbhar Agriculture’,” he tweeted.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance allows inter-state and intra-state trade of farmers’ produce outside mandis. The Ordinance essentially aims to end the monopoly of the Agricultural Produce Market Committees and allow anyone to buy and sell agricultural produce. Meanwhile, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance allows farmers to sell their agricultural produce to private players.

The Bills are at the centre of a political tussle between the central and state governments. Agriculture and markets are state subjects, so the ordinances appear to encroach on state functions. Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, a member of the Shiromani Akali Dal, had on Thursday resigned over the passage of these bills in the Lok Sabha.