In the end it took Parliament all of 12 minutes to scrap the three farm laws against which farmers have been agitating for the past year leading to the deaths of 750 of them.
The Farm Laws Repeal Bill — which rolled back the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — was passed by voice vote in the Lok Sabha in four minutes. It took a little longer in the Rajya Sabha because Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge was permitted to speak briefly. But even there, the laws were scrapped without discussion as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hailed the move as a “victory of farmer” and Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar said the repeal showed the “generosity” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The farmers leading the protest, however, said while an “infection” had been cured, they would keep up the pressure on their other demands, including a legal guarantee for the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for agri-commodities, and they would decide their future course of action at a meeting on Saturday.
The business in both houses on Monday was thus completed in record time, but amid noisy interruptions. In the Lok Sabha, members poured into the well of the house carrying placards and shouting slogans. In the Upper House, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu warned members they would be “named” (prior to being ejected from the house) if they attempted to enter the well. Even so, slogan shouting continued.
Ahead of the session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “This is an important session of the Parliament. The citizens of the country want a productive session. Our government is ready to answer all questions. We should debate in the Parliament, and maintain the decorum of the proceedings.”
“I hope that in future, benchmark should be how the House functioned, how much contribution was made and not who made how much efforts to forcefully disrupt the session…benchmark should be how much productive work happened during the session.” Earlier, he held a meeting with senior Cabinet members.
The Opposition held its own meetings, but cracks were evident. Congress MPs led by party chief Sonia Gandhi and former president Rahul Gandhi held a protest in Parliament complex over the farm laws and Kharge called a meeting of Opposition parties that many attended but the TMC, as expected, skipped.
The repeal comes after the BJP lost several byelections and is preparing to face elections in five states in a few months. The move was announced by Modi days after a meeting of the BJP national executive, where the party’s prospects in the elections were discussed.
Farmers’ groups hailed the repeal but say they will lookout for the “committee” proposed by the PM that will address the MSP issue. Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader Rakesh Tikait’s tone on relations with government was noticeably milder. Some groups from Punjab have announced that now the farm laws have been repealed the movement should be called off. But Tikait, while conciliatory, does not seem to want to throw in the towel just yet.
Meanwhile, leaders of 12 Opposition parties condemned the government for bringing a motion that led to the suspension of 12 members of Rajya Sabha for their unruly behaviour during the last session. Twelve opposition members in Rajya Sabha, including Congress MP Chhaya Verma, Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi, and TMC’s Dola Sen were on Monday suspended for the remaining part of the session for misconduct and unruly behaviour during the last session. The Opposition leaders termed the suspension “unwarranted” and “undemocratic”. “The leaders of the opposition parties unitedly condemn the unwarranted and undemocratic suspension of 12 members in violation of all the Rules of Procedure of Rajya Sabha pertaining to suspension of members for the entire duration of the Winter session,” the joint statement said.