President gives assent to three farm bills, Badal calls it ‘dark day’ for India
President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday gave his assent to the three contentious farm Bills passed by the Parliament that has seen farmers and the Opposition hit the streets in protest and one of BJP’s oldest allies and a founding member of the NDA, the Shiromani Akali Dal, quitting the ruling coalition at the Centre.
The move comes at a time when farmers, particularly those in Punjab and Haryana, are protesting against the three Bills — The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Calling it a “dark day”, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said the President refused to act as per the nation’s conscience. “It’s really a dark day for India that the President has refused to act as the nation’s conscience. We were very hopeful that he would return these bills to Parliament for reconsideration as demanded by SAD and some other opposition parties,” ANI quoted Badal as saying.
On Friday, farmers in Haryana and Punjab took to the streets and blocked roads and highways by parking tractor-trolleys. A group of 31 farmer outfits in Punjab have already announced an indefinite “rail roko” protest from October 1. On Sunday too farmers continued to squat on the tracks in different parts of the state raising slogans against the BJP-led government while demanding the rollback of the Bills.
Their primary objection is to the first Bill, which provides for the creation of a “trade area” outside the existing Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) mandis. While there is no mention of the MSP mechanism in any of the three Bills, farmers fear that if the mandi system comes to an end, MSP will soon follow and they would be at the “mercy” of big corporate entities. The government has maintained that the MSP system will continue.
The President’s approval comes even as leaders of 18 parties approached Kovind last week and urged him not to give his assent to the Bills, arguing that they were passed in a “tyrannical manner unknown to our Constitution”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Opposition of “misleading” farmers and “using their shoulders to fire” at his government over the farm bills for “selfish political interests”, and asserted that for the first time in decades, the Centre has framed laws that will benefit farmers and workers.
Some Opposition states like Punjab, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh have said it would work towards ensuring that the farm bills were not implemented in the state. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Sunday said a resolution opposing them would be brought in the next session of the Assembly.
“We would bring a resolution (opposing the farm bills) in the next state assembly session, and if required, (we) will fight a legal battle against their implementation,” PTI quoted Baghel as saying.