Parliament monsoon session to see Congress oppose farm ordinances
The Congress, the principal Opposition party, is all set to oppose at least four ordinances, including three on farms, when the government tries to replace them in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament that starts from September 14.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020; and The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, will face a stiff opposition from the Congress in both Houses of Parliament.
The party has also found faults with The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.
The amendments in the farm-related laws were rolled out through promulgation of ordinances in June to help farmers following the unprecedented raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak. They were hailed as far-reaching steps to unshackle the country’s farm sector, as the Centre changed the six-decade-old Essential Commodities Act (ESA), 1955, and moved the other two ordinances to remove all restrictions on farm trade while guaranteeing a legal framework for pre-agreed prices to farmers.
But the Congress is unimpressed, especially because its governments in Punjab and Haryana have raised major objections to these changes.
Congress leaders claimed that these states have started facing farmer protests against the new laws.
On Wednesday late evening, the Congress announced a five-member panel to “discuss and formulate the party’s stands on key ordinances promulgated by the Central government”.
Some party leaders maintain that the move would help corporate buyers of crops and erode the safety net of the minimum support price (MSP) and other measures to safeguard farmers’ interests.
The experts had widely hailed the dilution of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMCC) Act, 2003, because of the more selling power to a farmer and empowering him to bypass the restrictions imposed by local mandis.
But the Congress has armed itself with data to show that more than 50% of different kinds of farm produce such as wheat, paddy, maize, mustard, bajra, cotton, soybean, jowar, potato, sugarcane, groundnut and even coconut are sold to local private traders and not at designated mandis.
Some Congress leaders also underlined the fact that traditional mandis would continue to charge fees, but trade zones specified under these ordinances would not levy any transaction fee, and as a result, would hurt farmers’ interests.
Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Hooda had already written a newspaper article citing the glaring lapses in these ordinances.
“We are also studying the Bihar experiment, when the APMCC Act, 2003, was removed in 2006. But the move did not benefit farmers, as they were forced to sell produce below MSP rates,” said a Congress leader.
Another senior Congress leader said that amendments to The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, would encourage hoarding and consumers would be the worst affected.