The Rajya Sabha on Sunday descended into chaos as the House passed two contentious agriculture Bills amid a prolonged outpouring of anger by the Opposition.
The two ordinances – 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 – were passed by a voice vote and not a division of votes, even though the Congress, Trinamool Congress and other parties made a demand to the deputy chairperson.
The Rajya Sabha witnessed chaos as the bills were being passed: a section of opposition leaders tried to snatch documents from the Chairperson and even broke his microphone. Things came to a head when Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh did not consider the Opposition’s demand for a division of votes on a resolution to send the two bills to a select committee.
The audio telecast of the live proceedings was soon muted, cutting off viewers from what members of Parliament were saying. After a short adjournment, deputy chairperson Singh took up the bills, clause by clause, and passed them.
Farmers across the country have taken to the roads to fiercely protest the bills as they fear the new policies would bring about corporate dominance and dismantle the minimum support price regime.
Here is how the country’s leading newspapers covered the passage of the contentious Bills in the Rajya Sabha.
The Telegraph led with the headline “Voice clears farm bills, democracy speechless”. It spoke about how the contentious farm bills were “steamrolled through Parliament” with the Rajya Sabha passing these after a much-contested voice vote.
The newspaper also focussed on how the bills were passed even though most opposition parties and some allies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – the Biju Janata Dal and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi – called them anti-farmer.
Hindustan Times too chose to focus on how the bills were passed amid relentless protests from the opposition parties, who called the the ordinances “anti-farmer” and even a “death warrant”. “Stormy Sunday in the House as 2 farm bills go through,” read the headline.
The daily also covered how the Opposition have accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of “murdering the democracy”. Meanwhile, the ruling BJP has accused the parties of misleading the farmers.
The Indian Express led with the headline: “Crucial farm reforms through, trail of anger, discord in House”. The strap mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the bills “a watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture”.
It also focussed on the “unprecedented” no-confidence motion moved by Opposition parties against Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Harivansh Narayan Singh after he overruled the Opposition’s pleas to postpone Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s reply to the debate on the two farm bills.
Marathi daily Loksatta led with the headline, “War in the Rajya Sabha: Opposition breaks mics, tears books and papers; two farmers’ Bills passed”. The front page highlighted quotes from Opposition leaders calling the passage of the bills the “death of democracy”, as well as quotes Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh describing the bills as historic, and slamming the Opposition.
The Rajya Sabha fracas was the most prominent news on the front page of Gujarat Samachar, with a panel of photos of protests against the farmers’ bills in Punjab and Haryana, and a headline saying, “Farmers’ bills passed in Rajya Sabha amidst vandalism by MPs”. A sub-headline called the Parliament as a “battlefield”. Accompanying reports highlighted how the bills were cleared with a voice vote amidst Opposition members calling them a “death warrant” for farmers and how protesting farmers burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Hindi daily Amar Ujala reported how the Upper House passed two out of three bills, amid a war of words between ruling lawmakers and those opposing the legislation. The Upper House adjourned for the day during chaotic scenes, with opposition lawmakers tearing documents, breaking microphones and shouting slogans against the bills, it reported.
Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar led with the headline: “Bill passed...but Rajya Sabha failed,” and went on to describe the chaotic events that unfurled while the farm bills were being passed in the Upper House.
It focussed on how Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien was accused of tearing the rulebook of the House, while other members broke the microphones in protest. Besides this, the newspaper reported that Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu is expected to decide on the action to be taken against opposition MPs who trooped into the well of the House.
In Assam, the Dainiki Asom also highlighted how the farm bills were passed in the Upper House despite much opposition and chaos. The headline says: “Two farm Bills passed in Rajya Sabha amid protest by Opposition”.
Tamil Nadu’s Daily Thanthi led with the headline: “Amid Opposition protests in Rajya Sabha, farm Bills passed passed. In the strap, the daily said that books and documents were torn during the session. The front page also has a statement from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin, who said the bills are “anti-farmer”.
West Bengal’s Anandabazar Patrika also had the protests in Rajya Sabha as one of its main front page stories. “Opposition rampage with the farmer bills, Rajya Sabha turns into a battlefield” read the headline. The report highlighted the lack of support for the Bill – even amongst the BJP’s own allies. Only the AIADMK, the JD-U and the YSR Congress were ready to support it, the newspaper reported. Fearing a loss, the BJP opted to pass the Bills using a voice vote, it said.