New Delhi September 28, 2020 UPDATED: September 28, 2020 | 01:10 IST
Farmers in India have been protesting vehemently ever since three controversial farm bills were passed without much debate in Parliament. President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent for the three contentious bills despite intensifying protests across the country by farmers and opposition political parties.
On Monday, a tractor was set on fire at India Gate in the national capital as part of the farmers’ agitation against the three farm legislations. Sources told India Today TV that the tractor was set ablaze by a group of Punjab Youth Congress workers at the Rajpath during an ongoing protest against the bills.
The farmers’ protests in the country seem to be heating up even as the BJP-led NDA government tries to convince farmers that the bills would help deregulate the agricultural markets and help farmers in the country earn more.
Having said that, here are 10 points that will help you understand the farm bills controversy better:
1) The three farm bills were earlier introduced as ordinances by the government in June. The three ordinances were — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.
2) The Union Cabinet announced that the ordinances were promulgated to ease farmers’ access to markets across the country, help them enter contracts for assured returns and exempt more farm products from the Essential Commodities Act (EC) respectively. These ordinances were introduced by the Modi government to ease the impact of Covid-19 on farmers in India.
3) Farmers soon started protesting in many parts of North India, especially Punjab and Haryana. At the time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the agricultural reforms undertaken by the government will empower farmers in the country. A majority of farmers, however, were not in agreement.
4) Protests had intensified further in the north Indian states when the ordinances were introduced in Parliament and passed via voice vote in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The bills were vehemently opposed in both houses by opposition parties.
5) Initially, Lok Sabha MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who held the post of Union Minister for Food Processing, resigned. The passage of votes amid severe opposition even led to the suspension of 8 Rajya Sabha MPs, following which some opposition parties like TMC called it the “murder” of democracy. The Monsoon session was subsequently cut short as opposition party MPs staged a boycott.
6) The Centre slammed the Opposition for misguiding farmers and said reiterated that the three bills would help in increasing farmers’ income through private investments in the sector. However, opposition parties kept attacking the government while farmers continued protesting. Prominent voices like P Sainath of the People’s Archive of Rural India also slammed the Centre over its farm bills. Senior Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram have also been questioning the Centre over the farm bills. Gandhi even termed the farm bills as “death orders” for poor farmers. It may be noted that over 86 per cent of the country’s farmer can be categories as marginal farmers.
7) While the Centre termed the three farm legislation as historic, farmers do not seem to trust the government. They are worried that the bills would allow corporates to assume greater control over farm operations and weaken poor farmers in cases of legal disputes. While Centre assured that MSP and APMC structure would continue irrespective of the farm bills, experts have said that the MSP structure may suffer when corporates take over.
8) On September 25, farmers across the country held massive protests, supported by several farm bodies. Over 50,000 farmers protested in the state of Maharashtra. Protests were also held in Punjab, Haryana and small parts of Madhya Pradesh. Highways and railroads were blocked in many places. The agitation saw large-scale participation but to no avail. President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent for the three contentious bills despite the massive farmers’ unrest in the country.
9) The farmers’ agitation against the three farm bills seem to be becoming violent with every passing day. On Monday morning, a tractor was set on fire at India Gate. Five people have been detained in connection with the incident. Legal action has also been initiated against those detained. All of them are residents of Punjab, according to an ANI report that quoted police. Police sources told India Today that the tractor was set ablaze by members of the Punjab Youth Congress. Around 15-20 people set the tractor on fire, police told news agency PTI.
10) A massive protest is also raging across Karnataka where a state-wide bandh is being observed. Farmers’ organisations in the state are protesting against the three farm bills. The dawn-to-dusk bandh call has been supported by several pro-Kannada and other outfits besides the opposition Congress and the JD(S), who had opposed the amendment bills in the assembly. Security deployment has also been increased in the state in the wake of the protests.