The Kerala Assembly on Thursday passed a resolution against the contentious agricultural laws during a special session convened to discuss the reforms, reported ANI. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who moved the resolution, said it was the duty of the state government to stand with the protesting farmers.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan had on Monday given his assent for convening the special session on December 31. The governor’s nod came after the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front government sent a fresh proposal to convene the Assembly as Khan had turned down an earlier recommendation.
“All three laws will only help big corporate houses,” Vijayan told the Assembly on Thursday. “The current situation makes it clear that if this agitation continues, it will seriously affect Kerala. There is no doubt that Kerala will starve if the supply of food items from other states stops.”
Vijayan called the farmers’ protest “a legendary struggle”. “There is a great will behind this protest that has not been seen until recently,” he added. “The farmers are joining the struggle and fighting the extreme cold in Delhi. Thirty-two farmers lost their lives during the 35-day strike.”
Bharatiya Janata Party O Rajagopal spoke against the resolution, but did not oppose it during voting, The Hindu reported. “Similar farm laws were promised by Congress in their poll manifesto,” he said, according to News 18. “CPI(M) [Communist Party of India (Marxist)] also demanded to bring in such laws. Now, both parties are opposing it. Farmers shouldn’t be misguided.”
Hundreds of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at Delhi’s borders, blocking highways in giant demonstrations against the new legislations. They fear the reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations. Many have died due to the biting cold weather, as they camp out in the open in their tractors and trailers.
“Farmers are worried that they will lose even the current support price for food grains,” Vijayan noted. “The serious problem that arises is that the bargaining power of farmers is often weakened in the face of the strength of corporate entities. Not only does the law not provide for legal protection for farmers, it also lacks the capacity to wage legal battles with corporates.”
The chief minister accused the Centre of “shirking its responsibility” of providing fair prices to the farmers. “There should be a system in place where agricultural products are procured by the Central government and distributed to the needy at fair prices,” he said. “Instead, the Central government has allowed corporates to take over the trade in agricultural products.”
Vijayan said the legislatures had an obligation to “take the legislation seriously” when it causes “great concern and suspicion”. “For our country, agriculture is not just a productive sector, it is a part of our culture,” he added. “Therefore, the agrarian reforms need to be carefully conceived and implemented.”
He also expressed concern about how the reforms would impact food security. “When the government withdraws from stockpiling and distribution, hoarding and black market will increase and hence, food security will be jeopardised,” the Left leader said. “The situation will be aggravated by the exclusion of essential commodities, including food grains and pulses from the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act.”
In many parts of the country, falling prices of agricultural products and farmer suicides have become major social problems, Vijayan noted. “In this situation, the government should announce minimum support prices for more produce and take steps to make agriculture profitable, he said.
Kerala government’s resolution is a ‘futile exercise’: Union minister
However, Union minister V Muraleedharan said Kerala Assembly passing a resolution demanding that the BJP-led government at the Centre scrap the farm laws is a “futile exercise”, reported ANI.
“Kerala Assembly is doing a futile exercise because the law has been passed by Parliament,” he said. “It is like going against the general view of the whole country. If Kerala government is so particular that every farmer should sell his produce as per APMC [Agricultural Produce Market Committee] Act, Kerala should enact such a law. Government of India has brought this law to give better remuneration to farmers.”
He also said the Kerala Assembly and the government should devote their time on the matters really concerning the farmers’ welfare, and not misuse public money. “Parliament passes a bill which is approved naturally by the members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha,” Muraleedharan said. “It means it expresses the common opinion of the whole country.”