6.20 pm: Lok Sabha adjourned till Monday as Opposition members continue with their protest against farm laws, reports PTI.

5.55 pm: Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury repeats the Opposition’s demand for a separate discussion on the farm laws during the Budget session. “All kinds of things are discussed in Motion of Thanks to President’s Address,” he says, according to ANI. “Our only demand is that separate discussion be held over farmers’ issue after Motion of Thanks.”

5.49 pm: Congress leader Digvijaya Singh says the Union agriculture minister knows nothing about the farming, ANI reports. “Two ministers held talks with farmers – one of them, Narendra Singh Tomar ji, is good person but he doesn’t know anything about farming,” Singh says. “And Piyush Goyal is spokesperson of corporate sector. I think farm laws were drafted in Mumbai and not in Delhi.”

5.43 pm: Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar says no Opposition leader is ready to point out the flaws in the farming laws, which critics often refer to as “black laws”, ANI reports. “If you are protesting against the law, then discussion should be held on its provisions,” he says. “Unfortunately, this is not happening.”

Tomar says the government is ready for an open discussions with the farmers as well as the Opposition. “We have been talking to them[the farmers],” he says. “We have given them a proposal, we will talk with them again after their proposal comes.”

4.16 pm: Lok Sabha is adjourned till 6 pm amid protest by Opposition parties over farm laws, reports ANI.

4.15 pm: Opposition leaders raise slogans on farmers’ protest in Lok Sabha. reports The Indian Express.

4.11 pm: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan says in Lok Sabha that Rs 35,000 crore has been allocated for vaccination, adding the amount will be increased if needed, reports ANI.

3.24 pm: The Rajya Sabha is adjourned till 9 am on Monday.

2.16 pm: Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge accuses the Centre of lying about minimum support price, The Hindu reports. “You said you will double farmers income, in six years they have not given 50% above production cost to farmers,” Kharge says.

The senior Congress leader adds: “They [the Centre] lie regarding MSP. Modi ji [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] never stops saying that Congress did not increase MSP, [the] reality is in Congress time MSP increased by 219%, they only increased a little over 40%.”

2.10 pm: Shiromani Akali Dal MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder points out the flaws in the farming laws, after the Union agriculture minister says there is nothing wrong with them, The Hindu reports.

“You say the laws enable contract farming,” Bhunder says. “But on the other hand you have diluted Essential Commodities Act and brought trade laws. A small or marginal farmer is pitted against a large corporate. How will he fight them?”

He explains how farmers will suffer because of the new laws. “When a big company comes it will dictate terms, there will be no control on price, farmer will be under debt, the farmer will lose land,” the Akali Dal MP says. “Have you given guarantee of MSP in the law?”

Bhunder urges the Centre to repeal the laws.

12.50 pm: The agriculture minister ends his speech by claiming that the government has tried to double farmers’ income through the reforms. “The three farm bills are a step in this direction,” he adds.

12.45 pm: Tomar alleges, “Only Congress can do farming by blood, not BJP.”

His comments lead to an uproar in the House, with Congress leader Anand Sharma seeking the expunging of his statements, reports The Hindu.

12.40 pm: Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar says “there is nothing wrong” with the farm laws. “But the farmer protests are wrong,” he adds, according to Live Law. “Farmers are being misled, have been told that their lands will be taken away. There is not a single provision in the contract farming law that says this.”

12.37 pm: Heated exchanges are taking place in the House as opposition leaders cross-question the agriculture minister over his claims about the new farm laws.

12.36 pm: Narendra Tomar’s statements are met with strong objections from opposition leaders who accuse him of lying.

12.35 pm: “I made it clear that the government is ready to make amendments, but it doesn’t mean there is any problem in farm laws,” Tomar continues. “People in a particular state are misinformed.”

12.34 pm: The agriculture minister claims that Opposition leaders keep calling the reforms “black laws” but none of them have been able to explain what exactly is the problem with these legislations.

12.32 pm: Tomar accuses the Opposition of misleading farmers about the benefits of the laws. “The farmers have been disillusioned,” he adds. “They are being made to believe that the government will snatch their lands.”

12.32 pm: The Narendra Modi government is committed to the farmers of this country, Tomar says. “We have repeatedly tried to address the farmers’ concerns,” he adds. “We have repeatedly held talks with them, tried to give them assurances.”

12.30 pm: “We have started to provide MSP at 50% more than the production cost,” Tomar adds, reports ANI. “Also, Rs 1 lakh crore agriculture infrastructure fund has been given under Atmanirbhar package. We have tried to ensure the requisite investment reaches the agriculture sector.”

12.28 pm: Referring to the new agriculture reforms, Tomar asks, “what is so ‘black’ about these laws.”

12.24 pm: The pro-poor schemes of the government have brought a change in the lives of the people living in villages, the agriculture minister claims.

12.22 pm: Tomar says the social lifestyle of rural India has changed under the Modi government. “Housing for all was ensured under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana,” he adds, according to Live Law. “Eight crore LPG connections were made in rural India. Toilets were established in every household. Electricity connections were provided under Saubhagya Yojana.”

12.20 pm: The agriculture minister takes a dig at the Congress for not doing enough under the rural employment scheme. “It is true that you started MGNREGA, but till your government was there it was only used to dig trenches. “You started the scheme but we took it forward. We increased MGNREGA’s efficacy.”

12.17 pm: “We continuously increased the fund for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,” Tomar adds. “When Covid-19 hit the country, we raised the fund allocation to MGNREGA from Rs 61,000 crores to Rs 1.115 lakh crores. More than 10 crore people were provided employment.”

Also read:

Budget: Centre allocates Rs 73,000 crore to MGNREGA – 34% less than revised estimate for 2020-’21

12.15 pm: Tomar is now listing out the measures taken by the government for rural development. “Around Rs 43,000 crore has been sanctioned for healthcare in rural areas,” he says, according to ANI. “Rs 2.8 lakh crores will be spent via gram panchayats in five years.”

12.13 pm: “It gives me happiness to say that the people rule and the people of this country are the nation’s strength,” Tomar adds in his address. “This showed when lockdown-1 happened and the way the country followed discipline.”

12.12 pm: The Narendra Modi government is committed to villages and farmers, Tomar adds, reports The Hindu.

12.10 pm: Tomar says that 2020 was a difficult year for the country. “We faced Covid-19 and economy was affected,” he adds.

12.07 pm: Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar is speaking about the new farm laws in Parliament.

11.54 am: Congress leader Anand Sharma rues the fact that the president’s speech failed to mention the plight of migrant workers during the coronavirus-induced lockdown, reports The Hindu. He also criticises Ram Nath Kovind for praising the farm laws, at a time when farmers are protesting against the reforms.

“We have become the internet shutdown capital of the world,” he adds. “You compare yourselves with USA. They provided financial support to their citizens during lockdown. But you have provided stimulus to corporates.”

10.52 am: Shiromani Akali Dal MP Sukhdev Dhindsa says the farmers should not be blamed for the violence that took place during the Republic Day tractor rally, The Indian Express reports. He adds that a certain group of people insulted the national flag that day and an inquiry should be launched into the incident.

He adds that the farmers’ demands should be met. “Unlike any other protests, farmers agitation has got support on the national and international levels, over lakhs are sitting [at the borders] and they deserve justice,” he says.

10.43 am: Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut also criticises the crackdown on the protests and the labelling of farmers as extremists. “The farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Western UP are fighting on behalf of farmers from across the nation,” he says, according to The Hindu. “They are not traitors. They are not Khalistanis.”

Raut asks why Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and journalist Rajdeep Sardesai were being called traitors. “Who is a nationalist?” he asks. “Arnab Goswami? Kangana Ranaut? Goswami broke the Official Secrets Act. He knew beforehand about the Balakot attack. But you are sheltering him.”

The Shiv Sena MP also raises questions about the protestors missing after the Republic Day violence. “We are all ashamed by the incidents of January 26.” he says. “But who is Deep Sidhu, the man responsible for the incident? So many of the farmers are missing since January 26. We don’t know whether the police have killed them in an encounter.”

10.38 am: Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa compares the barricades at farmers’ protest sites to the Berlin Wall, The Hindu reports.

“The farmers are protesting on their own,” he says, according to the newspaper. “They are collecting money from their fellow villagers to fund the protest. We fed the Bangladesh prisoners of war for two years. But you are not giving water to our own farmers. The barricades of Ghazipur looks like Berlin Wall.”

Bajwa adds: “Is this world’s biggest Democracy? These are the scenes from Afghanistan, in Saddam’s Iraq, in Libya.”

10.34 am: Bahujan Samaj Party MP Satish Mishra criticises the government for suppressing the farmers’ protest. “You have dug up trenches to suppress farmers’ stir,” he says, according to ANI. “You’ve not done it for them, but for yourself. You snapped their water and electricity supplies and even removed toilets, without thinking that women are also there [at the protest sites]. This is a human rights violation.”

Mishra adds: “Nails have been fixed near the protest sites. I think govt would not have made this kind of preparation at Pakistan border as it is doing at Delhi borders. Annadatas are being called the enemy of the nation.” He urges the government to repeal the farming laws.

9.30 am: Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel says the government needs to think why the farmers are feeling insecure and protesting the farm laws, reports The Hindu. “We welcome the fact that you are thinking about the progress of farmers,” he says. “The entire Opposition had urged the government to send the laws to a Select Committee. What was the hurry? If widespread consultations were held, we would not be seeing the spectacle that we are witnessing right now.”

9.15 am: Bharatiya Janata Party MP Mahesh Poddar gives a short duration discussion notice in Rajya Sabha over “efficient handling of Covid-19 situation in the country”, reports News18.

9.12 am: The Opposition is expected to continue its tirade of criticism of the government over the new agriculture laws in both Houses of Parliament for the fourth consecutive day. Lok Sabha proceedings were adjourned four times yesterday amid uproar by opposition leaders over the legislations.

9.10 am: Day’s proceedings begin in Rajya Sabha.

9.02 am: In their letter to the Lok Sabha Speaker, Opposition MPs wrote, “The impression we got at the Delhi-Ghazipur border is like the border between India and Pakistan. The condition of farmers resembles that of prisoners in jail.”

The politicians asked Om Birla whether India had turned into a “police state”.

9.00 am: On Thursday, 12 MPs from Opposition parties met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and handed him a letter demanding a discussion in the House on the farmers’ agitation, reports India Today. This came after a delegation of 15 non-National Democratic Alliance Members of Parliament were stopped from visiting protesting farmers at Delhi’s Ghazipur border.

This delegation was led by former Union minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet Harsimrat Kaur Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal, and comprised MPs from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Nationalist Congress Parties and the Trinamool Congress among others.

Here are the top updates from Thursday

  • Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned multiple times as the Opposition parties continued to protest against the farm laws and the Centre’s handling of the farmers’ agitation.
  • In the Rajya Sabha, Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh hit out at the Centre, alleging that farmers were being lathi-charged, called traitors, terrorists and Khalistanis. Singh pointed to the death of 165 farmers in the protest and appealed to the central government to “have mercy and repeal the three black laws”.
  • Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda called the farmers the backbone of the country and said that some anti-social elements caused the violence on Republic Day. He said these miscreants need to be punished for their acts.
  • Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Manoj Kumar Jha said the government has lost the patience to hear.  “In harsh winter you stopped water supply and toilet facilities, dug trenches, put barbed wires, and installed spikes,” he said. Such aggressive approach wasn’t even heard of towards the neighbouring nations who came inside [the Indian territory].”
  • In the Lok Sabha, Opposition leaders shouted slogans against the government and the farm laws as the House assembled at 4 pm. As the sloganeering continued to disrupt the House, Speaker Om Birla asked the protesting MPs to get back to their seats. As the MPs refused to hear, Birla adjourned the House till 5 pm.
  • The protest continued when the House again reassembled. After the Opposition leaders ignored his appeals, the Lok Sabha was again adjourned twice more.