NEW DELHI: After a marathon discussion on the contentious agricultural reform legislations, dubbed draconian by the Opposition, the Lok Sabha passed 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, with voice vote.
While the Opposition slammed the Centre for stepping in states’ domain, the government said the legislations will end the licence raj in agriculture.
Farmers will still have the choice to sell their produce by paying 8.5 per cent taxes at mandis or at zero tax under the proposed mechanism, it said.
Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar said opposition to the legislations was motivated by political reasons, while giving details of pro-farmers measures taken by the government.
He read out the Congress manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections wherein the party promised to abolish the APMC Act and amend the Essential Commodities Act.
Shiromani Akali Dal MP Sukhbir Singh Badal opposed the Bills calling them anti-farmer. The Opposition also strongly protested the legislations, claiming that they will corporatise farming to benefit the traders.
“There is a sinister attempt by the Centre to legislate on subjects under the state list,” said Mahua Moitra, Trinamool MP.
The sense was endorsed by scores of Opposition MPs, who said the Bills would take away the safety nets provided by the state regulations through the APMC Act, while also eroding the revenue sources of the states. Jasbir Singh Gil of the Congress said large traders and corporate will destroy the small farmers.
Countering the criticisms, Tomar said the contract farming would not benefit the corporates but the farmers.
While asking what laws prevail in states to protect the interests of the farmers, he stressed that the two legislations provide for mechanism to protect the cultivators, with land being out of the scope of the contract.
Tomar said the states impose levies to the tune of 2 to 8.5 per cent as mandi tax, with farmers benefiting from no taxes under the proposed legislations.