NEW DELHI: A day after senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Union Cabinet to protest farm ordinances that were passed in Lok Sabha, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, an affiliate of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has asked the government to send the three bills to a parliamentary committee for greater scrutiny.
Senior leaders of BKS said the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) should have planned the bills for the winter session of Parliament in December and not push them in the monsoon session. BKS also wanted the government to bring a bill in Parliament to ensure that farmers get minimum support price or MSP for their crops and that companies pay above MSP for the agriculture produce.
“We are in touch with representatives of the union government. We are not opposed to the three Bills but we have our own reservations. We have urged the union government to pass the Bills in the winter session and let the Bills go to standing committee for greater scrutiny,” said Dinesh Dattatraya Kulkarni, general secretary of BKS.
Farmers in Punjab and Haryana have been opposing the farm bills, fearing the ordinances are the first step towards weakening the MSP regime. They particularly fear that a weakening of the established mandi system in the state will eventually lead to putting a stop on the open-ended procurement system which allows farmers to sell their rice and wheat harvest to the government at support prices.
“We also want the union government to create a database on the companies that want to enter agriculture market. We are not talking about licences but there should be some mechanism to know which are the companies and what is the bank guarantee,” Kulkarni added.
The bills that have become a bone of contention between the BJP and its alliance partners, along with opposition parties, are Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.
Estimates by the Punjab Farmers’ Commission show that if MSP procurement stops farmers stand to lose around ₹15,000 crore annually, in addition to the state government losing out on ₹3,500 crore revenues on mandi fees and taxes if farm trade moves out of mandi premises, as is envisaged by the market reform ordinances.
However, the Centre has stepped in to allay farmer’s fear. On Thursday, ahead of the Lok Sabha passing the farm bills, agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said procurement at support prices will continue. The minister emphasized that the Narendra Modi government has in the past taken decisions like fixing support prices at 1.5 times the cost of production, thereby strengthening the procurement regime.
Ahead of discussions on the bill in the upper house of Parliament next week, farmer organisations plan countrywide protests, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) said in a statement late Thursday. The ordinances will pave the way for removing price security for farmers by opening up farm trade to corporates, it added.