Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday said that his party would take the lead to form a “national pro-farmer front” of regional parties against the three new agricultural laws passed on September 20, PTI reported. Badal said he would personally meet party representatives and tell them how the laws were meant for “safeguarding the interests of corporates and not farmers” .
The SAD chief, whose party exited the ruling National Democratic alliance over the contentious laws, also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to directly talk to the protesting farmers outfits and come up with a solution that is “acceptable to all”.
The three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – were passed in September.
Weeks later, protests against the laws continue to be staged in many parts of the country. When two of the legislations were tabled during a chaotic session in Parliament on September 20, some Opposition MPs claimed that they would prove to be the “death warrant” for the agricultural sector. President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the bills on September 27, after which they became laws.
Critics say that these new agricultural policies will lead to farmers losing out on guaranteed purchase prices for their crops, to the benefit of large corporations. However, the government has repeatedly reiterated that the mechanism of procuring the produce of farmers at a guaranteed minimum rate would continue.
Farmers need guaranteed Minimum Support Price, Badal said in a statement, adding that the new laws would leave them at the mercy of big corporates. “Those with small land holdings cannot take their produce to far off places or store it for months,” he said. “In such a situation they will not have any bargaining power with private players.”
Badal added that farmers organisations have “rightly rejected” the offer for secretary-level talks by the agriculture ministry a”s a bureaucrat cannot offer anything on the table”. The SAD chief said the point of the meeting was to impose the Centre’s point of view on the farmers.
On Wednesday, several farmers’ bodies in Punjab rejected the agriculture department’s invitation for a meeting, saying they will not talk to anybody less than the Union agriculture minister as an “officer does not have to tell them if these laws are beneficial for farmers”.
The SAD chief said his party demands a written assurance from the Centre that it would continue procuring good grains as per the existing MSP regime, followed by a legislation making this a statutory law. “We also stand for constitutional guarantees banning trade in food grains below the MSP,” Badal added.
On October 1,the Shiromani Akali Dal began three separate farmers’ marches from Punjab to Chandigarh against the new farm laws. At the end of the protest, the party’s leadership submitted a memorandum against the laws to Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore.
Sukhbir Singh Badal led a march from Amritsar while Harsimrat Kaur Badal began the protests from Bathinda. A third procession, led by Akali Dal leaders Chandumajra and Cheema began from Anandpur Sahib. Police eventually resorted to lathicharge to disperse SAD workers, following which Harsimrat Kaur Badal was taken into custody. The SAD leader, had resigned from Narendra Modi’s Cabinet on September 18.