Farm bills: Ghulam Nabi Azad to meet President today
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad will meet President Ram Nath Kovind at 5pm on Wednesday to request him, on behalf of 18 political parties, to not give his assent to farm bills passed by the Upper House on Sunday amid a ruckus.
Azad will also apprise the President about the Rajya Sabha passing important legislations in both Houses of Parliament in the absence of Opposition parties, which boycotted the rest of the monsoon session after the government rejected their demands to withdraw the farm bills.
They had also requested Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to revoke the suspension of eight members—Rajeev Satav, Syed Nasir Hussain and Ripun Bora of the Congress, Derek O’Brien and Dola Sen of the Trinamool Congress, KK Ragesh and Elamaram Kareem of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Sanjay Singh of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The two agricultural bills—the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020—were cleared by voice vote in Parliament on Sunday even as the Opposition protested and stormed the well of the House seeking that they be sent to a select committee. The ruckus resulted in the suspension of the eight members.
Parliament on Tuesday also passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill.
On Tuesday, Azad had said that the opposition will not end its boycott till the government introduces another bill making it illegal for private players to buy food grains from farmers below the minimum support price (MSP), and making it mandatory for all state agencies to comply by the MSP and fix the procurement price as per the Swaminathan panel’s recommendations.
Representatives of the Opposition parties met in the Parliament House on Wednesday to chalk out their future strategy. It was decided at the meeting that a delegation will meet the President in a delegation and hand over a memorandum to him, urging him not to give his assent to the farm bills.
Representatives of the Opposition parties then sought time from the Parliament and were told that only five leaders would be allowed to meet the President in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, a Congress leader said.
He said the leaders of the 18 Opposition parties then decided that only Azad would meet the President on their behalf.
The standoff between the government and the Opposition over the farm bills has escalated with both sides taking a hard stand on the issue. While the Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die on Wednesday afternoon, the Lok Sabha will follow suit in the evening.
While the Congress has decided to hit the streets across the country to protest against the farm bills Thursday onwards, other regional Opposition parties are planning an agitation against the farm bills in their respective states too.
Earlier in the day, Opposition leaders, including Azad, Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh (Congress), Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party member Jaya Bachchan, took out a protest march from the Mahatma Gandhi statue to the Ambedkar Statue at the Parliament house complex.
The leaders carried placards with messages such as ‘Save Farmers’, Save Workers’ and ‘Save Democracy’.
Prior to their protest, the leaders had also written to the Rajya Sabha chairman urging him not to pass the three labour codes in the Upper House in the absence of Opposition parties. “It will be a blot on democracy if the bills are passed unilaterally,” they wrote in the letter.
Azad later said he would meet the President and tell him that there was no division of votes during the passage of bills in the Rajya Sabha.