‘The farm bills are just creating procedural clearances’
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Bhupender Yadav has blamed the Opposition for the disruption in Rajya Sabha during the discussion and passage of the two of the contentious farm Bills on Sunday. In an interview with Smriti Kak Ramachandran, Yadav said the government is open to addressing all concerns about the Bills, which he insisted are aimed at protecting the rights of the farmers. Edited excerpts:
The Opposition is alleging the government bulldozes its way through in Parliament. It prefers to take the ordinance route. In the case of the farm Bills, they felt more scrutiny was needed, which was denied. How will you counter that?
To bring an ordinance is the right of the government and to get it passed within six months from the date from which it was issued is the government’s mandate. The government is seriously taking care to ensure that all procedures are followed. These Bills have been discussed at the government as well as non-government level.
As far as issues like contract farming are concerned, they are already being implemented in states like Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, and Odisha. There are not issues that have never been implemented before or are completely new.
As far as concerns about the sale of crops go, this [legislation]...does not put an end to the system of selling grains in Mandis. We are only creating an alternative for the farmers.
These Bills are just creating procedural clearances. There has been a long debate on these issues in the country. What these bills will do is streamline what is already being implemented.
The Bills talk about procedures, about giving the farmers a new and additional way [to sell their produce]. Today, we have proposals to open 10,000 new FPOs [farmer producer organisations] and 1,000 new Agro start-ups. A digital revolution is happening. So, in such a situation to deprive the farmers of the benefits of digital transactions is not right. How can we stop farmers and their children from accessing the benefits of the digital revolution? The Opposition is looking to stall the Bills using excuses.
Why did the government turn down the demand for sending the Bills to the select committee?
These Bills only created procedural ways to benefit farmers. These are not Bills that needed to be sent to the committee. These have been discussed in Parliament and the due process that has to be followed for the passage of a bill was adhered to. ...we stuck to the democratic system. It was the Opposition that disrupted the process and insulted the process.
The responsibility of running the House rests with the government. There is a sense that if the Opposition was seeking more discussion or division of votes, then the demand should be met, but it was not done on Sunday and on many occasions in the past...
When these Bills were taken up for discussion at the business advisory committee [meeting] to decide how much time should be allocated for discussion, both the Opposition as well as the government agreed that there will be four hours allocated for these two Bills. It was the Opposition that said that both Bills should be taken up together for discussion and passage. The BJP cut short the time of its own MPs [members of Parliament] to allow the Opposition members to speak... The government was ready to seek a division of votes, but that can happen only when the members are on their seats. The Opposition came into the Well of the House. They climbed on the tables of the secretariat staff, tore papers. They broke the chairperson’s mike so that his voice could not be heard. All this shows that they did not want a division. And as for the...[complaints] that these bills were tabled on a Sunday, it was already decided that both Houses will function for four hours each day including on Saturday and Sunday...
The Opposition has also alleged that on Sunday when the Bills were passed by a voice vote, voices of the opposition MPs sitting in the Lok Sabha were not taken into account...
This is again baseless. All voices were being recorded and carried forth between the Houses. When the speeches they made while sitting in the Lok Sabha could be heard and recorded, how is it that the secretariat could not hear their voices while the voice vote was being counted. Again, before seeking a division of votes, the Opposition started the ruckus and the blame for what happened in Parliament rests on them. The government was ready for a division of votes.
Your ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is against the Bills. The affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have concerns too. How is it that the government has failed to convince its own allies and friends?
The government is ready to address the concerns of everybody including the SAD. ...when the Manmohan Singh government was in power, there was a committee that was formed under the chairmanship of the then Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, which also had Prakash Singh Badal [of SAD] as a member. In chapter 5 of the report that was prepared by them, there is a mention of these laws and about the need to repeal the Essential Commodities Act. If they [SAD] are objecting to the Bills now, it can only be [for] political [reasons].
The government has never said no to an open debate on these Bills, which are entirely based on the protection of the farmers’ interests. As far as the merits of the Bills are concerned, the government has never shied away from discussing the concerns that people have.
The Opposition is complaining about the suspension of MPs and planning an all-night protest...
If a decision... has been taken in the House, then it is the responsibility of the Opposition to adhere to it. Parliament is run in accordance with rules and regulations. There is a certain decorum that has to be maintained. Rajya Sabha is the House of the elders. You cannot have hooliganism on the floor of the House; pushing and jostling. You cannot refuse to abide by the ruling. It is an unfortunate situation. And if nothing else, the Opposition should listen to their inner voice.