The BJP’s oldest ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal, pulled out its lone minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, from the govt on Thursday and said it might review ties over a group of farm bills that have drawn protests from opposition parties and farmers, mostly in Punjab and Haryana. What are these bills and why have they landed the BJP in trouble with its second major ally after its break-up with the Shiv Sena last year?
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The three bills are – the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill; the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill; and therefore the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. They were passed within the Lok Sabha amid protests and an opposition walk-out. The bills will next be tabled within the Rajya Sabha.
The government says the proposed laws are meant to assist small and marginal farmers. However, the bills have triggered massive protests in agriculture-dependent states where farmers fear loss of livelihood.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill seeks to develop a national framework for farming agreements to empower farmers through networking with agribusiness firms, exporters and retailers.
The bill, says the govt , permits a farmer to enter into a written farming agreement for the availability of farm produce at an agreed price. The agreement should clearly specify the worth of produce and any additional amount over and above the guaranteed price.
The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill seeks to offer farmers the selection to sell their produce at competitive prices anywhere within the country.
According to the govt , the bill aims at creating an ecosystem where farmers and traders enjoy the liberty of choice concerning the sale and buy of farm produce.
This will facilitate remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to market efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade, says the govt .
The bills have stirred protests because farmers fear they’re going to not get paid at the Minimum Support Price and commission agents fear they’re going to be hit. Opposition parties the bills are “anti-farmer” because the agriculture sector are going to be left to the fate of corporate interests.
States like Punjab and Haryana also fear losing revenue because they can’t collect “Mandi fees” if farmers can sell their produce anywhere.
Much of the revenue of those states comes from central procurement agencies who buy produce like wheat and rice for the central pool. Their worry is that if central agencies don’t procure from state Mandis, the state will lose commission.