President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday evening gave his assent to the three farm bills that were passed in the Parliament last week amid nationwide farmers’ protest.

Two bills – the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill – were passed in the Parliament on September 20. The last one, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, was also approved by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha on September 22. These proposed legislations are now going to be implemented as law.

Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal called it a “dark day for India” as several members of the Opposition had urged Kovind not to give his assent, ANI reported. “The President has refused to act as the nation’s conscience,” Badal said. “We were very hopeful that he would return these bills to Parliament for reconsideration as demanded by SAD and some other Opposition parties.”

His comments came a day after the party quit the BJP-led alliance amid differences over the farm bills. The party’s leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal had quit as Union minister on September 18.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said the state government will not implement the laws. “The bills passed by Parliament are anti-farmers,” he said. “So we’re opposing it. Maha Vikas Aghadi will also oppose it and not implement it in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena is also with us. We’ll sit together and form a strategy.”

On September 23, Congress MP and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad had met Kovind and requested him to withhold his approval to the Centre’s contentious farm bills. The meeting came after Opposition parties’ boycott of the Parliament in protest against the way the Centre passed the bills.

While the Opposition has said the “anti-farmer” bills were passed in an undemocratic manner, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party accused them of disrupting parliamentary proceedings. But neither the Centre nor the Rajya Sabha chairperson and his deputy have offered an explanation as to why a division vote was not allowed on the farm bills, despite the fact that several parties were opposed to the bills.

Footage of Rajya Sabha TV has revealed that Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Tiruchi Siva and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader KK Ragesh were in their seats when they demanded a division of votes during the passage of two farming bills in the Upper House on September 20.

Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh, however, had claimed that he denied the Opposition’s demand for a division of votes because the legislators were not seated when they asked. Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien had also claimed that the Rajya Sabha TV feed was cut off while the House pushed the bills through, and Parliament rules were broken that day.

Derek O’Brien and Dola Sen of the Trinamool Congress, Rajiv Satav, Ripun Bora and Syed Nasir Hussain of the Congress, Elamaram Kareem and KK Ragesh of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh were suspended after the chaos. Rajya Sabha chairperson Venkaiah Naidu had called their suspension as “unpleasant but inevitable”, but not permit the Opposition’s motion of no-confidence against Singh.

Farmers and traders have also vehemently opposed the new bills, alleging the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the bills will leave them at the mercy of corporate powers.

Also read:

  1. Modi insists farm bills have nothing to do with MSP – so why are farmers protesting?
  2. Dubious voice vote to pass critical farm bills severely dents Indian democracy