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Home / India News / Harsimrat Kaur Badal quits Cabinet over farm bills

Harsimrat Kaur Badal quits Cabinet over farm bills

SAD had been asking the Centre not to go ahead with the three agriculture-related bills for approval of Parliament “until all reservations expressed by farmers’ organisations, farmers and farm labourers” are addressed.

india Updated: Sep 18, 2020, 06:14 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
“I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with  farmers as their daughter and sister,” Harsimrat Kaur Badal wrote in a Twitter message.
“I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter and sister,” Harsimrat Kaur Badal wrote in a Twitter message.(PTI file photo)

Minister of food processing industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Union Cabinet on Thursday after the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) opposed legislation seeking to liberalise agricultural markets, exposing a rift between the party and its long-time ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on reforms in the farm sector.

The party continues to be a part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA). While announcing SAD’s decision to withdraw its only representative from the Narendra Modi Cabinet, her husband and party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said the party will continue to support the government and the BJP, but will oppose “anti-farmer policies”.

“These bills have many provisions that go against farmers’ interests. We have repeatedly asked the government that please address the apprehensions of farmers, but the government had done nothing. Therefore, I oppose these bills,” Sukhbir Singh Badal, the MP from Ferozpur, said in Lok Sabha during the debate on the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, which replace similar ordinances.

SAD had been asking the Centre not to go ahead with the three agriculture-related bills for approval of Parliament “until all reservations expressed by farmers’ organisations, farmers and farm labourers” are addressed.

Though the new measures -- aimed at freeing up farm trade from restrictions, at guaranteeing a legal framework for pre-agreed prices, and at laying down a new architecture for contract farming -- have been hailed by economists, farmer groups fear that they will lead to exploitation by big food-trading monopolies.

“I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter and sister,” Harsimrat Kaur Badal wrote in a Twitter message.

In a statement, she said the move would be a “normal course of action for any Akali,” stressing that “SAD can’t be a party to anything anti-farmer” and that the trust of farmers in the party was “sacred to us.”

On September 12, SAD formally asked the Centre not to enact the three farm ordinances during the monsoon session of Parliament, which began two days later.

On Tuesday, Sukhbir Badal voted against the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha, saying the proposed legislation was “against the interests of farmers”.

“The legislations will affect the entire procurement system. It is not just about mandis. It doesn’t take into {account the} realities of our farm sector,” Badal said, opposing the bills on Thursday.

The new changes say that the government can invoke the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) ,1955, only if retail prices rise 50% in case of non-perishables and 100% in the case of perishable items from the average retail prices in the preceding 12 months or last five years.

SAD was a party of farmers, Badal said. The Centre would have done better to organise a meeting with farmers before moving ahead with the bills and adequately address their concerns, he said.

The Congress government in Punjab had passed a resolution in the Vidhan Sabha against the ordinances, prompting SAD to fiercely oppose the bills after initially supporting them. SAD’s core committee issued a press release saying it had met farmers’ organisations to listen to their views.

“Farmers are against these bills because it would make them vulnerable,” Badal said.

Farmers are already protesting these ordinances in food bowl states such as Haryana and Punjab, and influential farmers’ unions are also preparing to square off with the government on the demand of making profitable sales in the form of minimum support prices, or MSPs, a legal right.

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella group of nearly 200 farmers’ groups, has opposed the bills. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh is also unhappy with the ordinances. It demanded safeguards for the farming community, and so has the Bharatiya Kisan Union.

Farmer groups said they feared the new changes would lead to big monopolies. This would be just as bad as current cartelisation in mandis known as agricultural produce market committees (APMCs), they said.

“We want the ordinances to be signed into law with appropriate safeguards, such as a national portal of farm trade corporations,” said Mohini Mohan Mishra, all-India secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh.

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