NEW DELHI: Terming the Union Cabinet's approval of a bill repealing the farm laws on Wednesday a mere "formality", farmer leaders said now they want the government to resolve their other pending demands, most importantly the legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP).
However, they welcomed the move and said that this is only the first victory for the protesting farmers and they will continue their ongoing agitation.
The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021, approved days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement to repeal the three central farm laws, will now be introduced in Lok Sabha for passage in the upcoming Winter session of Parliament beginning November 29.
"Today's cabinet approval of a bill repealing the three farm laws, of which the announcement has already been made by PM Modi, was just a formality. It is just a process. Now, what we want from the government is to take up our other demands," Shiv Kumar 'Kaka' of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh (RKM) told PTI.
"Ideally, after they finally decide to repeal the laws they should have had another round of talks with us during which we would have discussed the MSP issue as well. This way the government could have gone ahead with both the bills -- repealing of farmer laws and legalising MSP -- simultaneously," he added.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a joint body of farmer unions leading the current protests, on Sunday wrote to the prime minister urging him to immediately resume talks on the farmers' six demands, including legal guarantee to procurement of crops at MSP.
The other demands include sacking and arrest of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, withdrawal of cases against farmers and building of a memorial for those who lost their lives during the agitation.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait, in his tweet on Wednesday, clarified that the farmers' movement is far from over and said he will call it farmers' victory only when they'll start getting the right prices for their crops.
"This protest will not end yet. We have a meeting on November 27 after which we will take further decisions. (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi ji has said farmers' income would be doubled from January 1, so will ask him how it would be done. Farmers' victory will be ensured when they get the right price for their crops," Tikait tweeted in Hindi.
Another farmer leader Kavita Kuruganti called the Union Cabinet nod a "logical step" in the whole process of billing the table in the Parliament, which she claimed "doesn't hold any more significance than what they have already stated on November 19" -- the day when the prime minister made the announcement of repealing the laws.
"The cabinet approval is a logical step. It doesn't hold any more significance than what we have already stated on November 19. The repeal of these bills is of course a welcoming development but this is only the first victory for the protesting farmers. We will wait for the other demands to be addressed," said Kuruganti, who is also a member of the SKM.
The farmers, in their list of demands, have also sought removal of penal provisions on farmers in the "Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Act 2021" and withdrawal of the draft "Electricity Amendments Bill, 2020/2021" proposed by the government.
However, for farmer leader and representative of the Rashtriya Kisan Majdoor Sabha Abhimanyu Kohar said the cabinet approval to repeal of the three anti-farmer laws is a "big day" as it makes the government's stand "official".
"This is a welcome step, and a big day for not only our movement but for democracy as well. Because don't forget this was a fight for democratic rights as well. Our victory gives stamp of approval to the Gandhian way of non-violent movement where people from every caste, creed, sex and religion participated. That said, our stand is clear and we'll continue fighting till all our demands are not met," he said.
The three laws to be repealed are: Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
These laws, passed in September last year, had triggered widespread protests by thousands of farmers mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh at Delhi borders.
The protest started at the fag-end of November 2020, and is still continuing.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill to repeal the three farm laws which led to protests at various Delhi border points by thousands of farmers for nearly a year, and it will be introduced in Parliament during the upcoming winter session.
The Cabinet approval comes following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement on November 19 regarding withdrawal of the three farm legislations.
He had said the Centre could not convince protesting farmers about the benefits of these laws, while urging them to end their protest.
The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 has been approved to roll back the three laws which were passed by Parliament in September last year with an objective to bring reforms in the agriculture sector, especially marketing of farm produce.
"The Cabinet has completed the formalities to repeal the three farm laws. In the upcoming session of the Parliament, it will be our priority to take back these three laws," Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur told reporters.
Thakur, however, did not reply to queries related to setting up of a committee to study minimum support price (MSP) and other farm issues as announced by the Prime Minister.
The winter session of Parliament will commence on November 29 and conclude on December 23.
The three laws to be repealed are -- Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
Later, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar tweeted that the Cabinet's approval in the very first meeting after the Prime Minister's announcement is a sign of the uniformity of his "words and deeds".
The repeal of these three legislations has been one of the key demands of around 40 farmer unions protesting against these reforms for nearly a year now.
These laws, which are under suspension following a Supreme Court order in January this year, had triggered widespread protests by thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, at Delhi borders.
The protest, which started at the fag-end of November 2020, is still continuing.
On November 21, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) -- the joint body of farmer unions leading the current protests -- had written to the Prime Minister to immediately resume talks on the farmers' six demands, including legal guarantee for procurement of crops at MSP.
The other demands were sacking and arrest of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, withdrawal of cases against farmers and building of a memorial for those who lost their lives during the agitation.
They also sought removal of penal provisions on farmers in the 'Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Act 2021' and withdrawal of the draft 'Electricity Amendments Bill, 2020/2021' proposed by the government.
SKM had said it would continue their planned protests, including a march to Parliament on November 29, to mark the one year of anti-farm law protests.
The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act is aimed at giving freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside the mandis.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act is to provide cultivators the right to enter into a contract with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for the sale of future farming produce at a pre-agreed price.
The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act was implemented to remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion, and potatoes from the list of essential commodities and also do away with the imposition of stock holding limits on such items, except under 'extraordinary circumstances'.
Maharashtra cabinet minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik on Wednesday demanded that the Centre start a dialogue at the earliest with protesting farmers to resolve their pending issues, including bringing a law on Minimum Support Price (MSP) for agriculture products.
Addressing a press conference along with Congress' state president Nana Patole, Malik also demanded compensation to farmers who died during the year-long protest outside Delhi against the three controversial agri-marketing laws which are now being repealed by the Centre.
The NCP and the Congress are part of the Shiv Sena-led MVA government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week announced that the three farm laws, which were at the centre of protest by farmers for the past year, will be repealed.
Modi had insisted the laws were pro-farmers, but added the Centre could not convince a section of cultivators about their benefits.
"Unless a law to bring MSP is not passed, demands of the farmers will remain unfulfilled. At least 700 people have lost their lives due to wrong policies," Malik said.
Dialogue is key to resolving any obstacle in democracy, the minister stressed.
"Dialogue (with farmers) was first initiated (by the government) in the beginning (of the protest last year). Then the protest was being bulldozed. Now, there is a unilateral announcement that some farmers could not be convinced (so the laws are being repealed)."
"Was the laws made for farmers or a section of farmers. The way word-play is on is wrong," Malik said.
He said the central government should show a desire to resolve the issue which was missing in the last 15 to 16 months.
Malik suggested taking the opposition into confidence on this contentious issue.
Taking a dig at the Centre, Patole said Modi is the "first prime minister whom the country doesn't trust."
"The Cabinet has done it (approved the decision to repeal the three laws), but it has to be seen how are laws rolled back," he said.
Though the organisations spearheading the agitation against the new farm laws have welcomed the Centre announcement of their withdrawal, they have said they will continue their stir in support of other pending demands, including statutory guarantee for remunerative prices for crops.
Describing the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal the three contentious farm laws as "victory of farmers and defeat of arrogance", Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad on Wednesday demanded that the Centre now fix the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the benefit of the peasants.
Addressing supporters on the occasion of the RJD's 25th foundation day, Prasad claimed that the party has the backing of farmers and the weaker sections of the society which will help it form the government in the state in the next assembly election.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to withdraw the laws is a victory of the farmers. Narendra Modi and arrogance have been defeated. However, the movement will continue till a law on MSP is made," he said.
Modi had last week announced that the three central farm laws will be withdrawn.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a Bill seeking to repeal them.
"The ruling NDA in the state and at the Centre were rattled by the massive and unprecedented support that RJD got recently from farmers. The RJD has got the support of farmers and weaker sections of the society.We will form the government in the state in the next assembly poll," the 73-year-old former chief minister said.
The party will give more tickets to women at that time, he said.
The RJD supremo, who has been staying in Delhi after his release from jail a few months ago, said he did not feel like staying away from the people of Bihar any longer.
He was convicted in a number of fodder scam cases and is now out on bail.
He appeared before a special CBI court in Patna in connection with another case relating to the fodder scam on Tuesday.
"Today, I decided to drive a jeep," he said.
Prasad drove a vehicle after many years.
A video clip showing the septuagenarian behind the steering wheel shared on his Twitter handle has gone viral.
The RJD chief also unveiled a gigantic stone lantern, the party's election symbol, on its office premises.
Speaking on the occasion, Leader of Opposition in the Bihar assembly Tejashwi Yadav claimed that the state has been going backwards under the rule of Nitish Kumar, but the ruling Janata Dal (United) is celebrating his 15 years in office.
"In which field has Bihar become unmatched? In unemployment, in liquor ban, in crime rate. Education has been ruined and not a single factory was set up in the past 15 years. There was only flood and drought in Bihar," said Yadav, Prasad's son and heir apparent.
"Where is Bihar in Niti Aayog ranking? It is at the number one position from the bottom. When the chief minister was asked about it, he expressed his ignorance. This shows that the government is not serious about meeting the basic needs of the people," Yadav said.
In June, Bihar has been adjudged as the worst performer in Niti Aayog's Sustainable Development Goals index 2020-21.
The ruling Janata Dal (United) on Wednesday organised events at 40 locations in the state to mark the completion of 15 years of Chief Minister Kumar in office.
Kumar and the JD(U)'s report card for these years were also presented on the occasion.
He had become CM on November 24 in 2005, ousting the RJD from power.
The Union government did not do the farmers any favour by announcing the repeal of the farm laws and it came after the BJP's poor performance in the Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan bypolls, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Wednesday.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill to repeal the three farm laws following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement on November 19.
It will be introduced in Lok Sabha during the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament beginning November 29.
Responding to a reporter's question, Yechury said how the Winter Session of Parliament will unfold depends on the Modi government.
"Different political parties, including the CPI(M), are preparing to discuss various issues in Parliament, including the agricultural laws.
It will depend on the behaviour of the government whether they are ready for discussion or show the way out of Parliament to those demanding discussion," he said.
Yechury said the CPI(M) will support the farmers in the Parliament by raising their voice for their demand for a law guaranteeing minimum support price for all crops of all farmers.
"The Central government did not do any favour to the farmers by announcing to rescind the farm laws," he said, adding the BJP government made the announcement after a poor performance in the recent bye-elections in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Earlier, Yechury inaugurated the 23rd State Conference of Punjab CPI(M) in Ludhiana.
"Salute to Punjab's contribution in the historic victory of the Kisan struggle. Inheritors of Bhagat Singh and Udham Singh's legacy must further strengthen popular struggles," he said in a tweet.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday alleged that the BJP-led central government would not have taken a decision to repeal the three contentious farm laws if there were no elections in Uttar Pradesh and other states in the near future.
Speaking to reporters at Mahabaleshwar in Satara district, he again asserted that the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra will complete its full five-year term, and expressed confidence that if elections are held now, the three-party alliance will once again come to power.
Pawar was speaking to reporters before attending the NCP's youth wing convention.
Last Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made an announcement about withdrawing the three agricultural laws, which faced strident protests on Delhi borders and elsewhere.
Replying to a query about it, the former Union agriculture minister said the move was announced in view of the upcoming elections in UP and other neighbouring states.
"There are elections in UP and other neighbouring states. As per our information, the people in power, when they visited the villages in some parts of these states, they got some different kind of reception from the locals. Considering this, they might have sensed what kind of treatment they will get when they go to seek votes. It seems that on that backdrop, this practical decision was taken," he said.
"If there were no elections in these states in the near future, this decision would not have been taken," he added.
When asked about Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil's reported remark that the state government will change in the new year, Pawar said that after the MVA government of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, was formed two years ago, a claim was made that it will collapse in 15 days.
"But later it was heard that it will fall in one month, two months, three months and so on," he said.
"Since Patil has time, he is trying his hands at astrology and on the basis of that, he must be drawing such conclusions. Let him enjoy it. However, this government will complete its five-year term and if we decide to go together in polls, it (the MVA alliance) will once again come to power," the NCP supremo asserted.
On a query about the actions taken by the central agencies in Maharashtra, Pawar said it is not a new thing.
"I recently met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. There are six to seven ministers from her government who are currently being harassed by the central agencies. I am going to meet her in Mumbai in the next few days."
He added that the BJP government at the Centre has taken a stand to "harass" non-BJP states by using agencies and the same is being witnessed in Maharashtra.
"Let them conduct inquiries. Nothing will come out. This is the finest example of the misuse of power by the people in power," he added.
Asked about former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh submitting in the court through his lawyer that there was threat to his life in Maharashtra, Pawar said that he was shocked after reading it.
"What to say if a person who worked on several key positions in Maharashtra police department that he is scared of his colleagues and the state police," he added.
On Monday, Singh's lawyer told the Supreme Court that the IPS officer was in hiding as he faced "threat to his life if he returns to Maharashtra".
Issuing notice to the CBI and the Maharashtra government on Singh's plea that the entire matter involving him and the former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh should be investigated by the CBI, the apex court protected him from arrest in criminal cases lodged against him in the state.
On the ongoing strike by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) employees, he said the financial condition of the corporation is bad.
"Since its inception, the ST (state transport) was self-reliant, but of late, the condition of the utility turned bad. The state government had to give Rs 500 crore to it," he said.
Pawar added that a meeting was organised, in which talks was held on improving the financial condition of the MSRTC.
Speaking about the demand of its employees to merge the MSRTC into the state government, he said a committee has been formed by the high court on the issue of various demands, including the merger.
"I read the statement of Transport Minister Anil Parab that the state government will consider the recommendations of the committee seriously, so the issue of the merger is currently pending before the HC committee and I do not want to speak on that issue," he said.
There are a total of 96,000 employees with the MSRTC, Pawar said, adding, "If the formula of the merger is accepted for these employees, it will be applied to the staff of other departments, who are not government employees but are associated with government services," he said.
There are 15 to 16 other departments whose staffers are not government employees, but are associated with that respective services, he said.
"If we want to consider all these employees together for the merger, then perhaps, the government will have to run for such purpose only and there will be doubt if the funds will be available for development projects.
He said the salaries given to their respective transport utility employees by states- Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana, were compared and during the comparison, it was found that the salaries given by Gujarat are lower than that are given in Maharashtra, whereas all other states pay wages higher than Maharashtra.
Pawar said he has come to know that the state government has taken a positive decision to end the ongoing stalemate.
Asked about the involvement of political parties in the agitation, Pawar said when a group of people go on a strike or hit the streets for some demands, it is an opportunity for the opposition to see if they can add more fuel to that agitation.
Speaking about the defeat of MLC and NCP leader Shashikant Shinde in the Satara District Central Cooperative Bank elections and the subsequent stone-pelting by his followers at the NCP office in Satara on Tuesday, Pawar said Shinde should have taken the elections seriously.
Talking about the NCP's youth wing convention, Pawar said the new generation needs to be shown what kind of strictures one has to follow while running a coalition government.