Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 15
The Lok Sabha on Tuesday cleared the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, amid strong objections from Opposition MPs who termed the BJP-led Centre’s move “anti-farmer and pro-hoarders, pro-big traders and pro-corporates”, and a surprising claim by ally Akali Dal that it was “not consulted” before the three contentious agri-Ordinances which it is now replacing with legislations.
Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal’s assertion during the discussion was laughed off by AAP’s Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann. Registering his party’s “strong opposition” to what he called “open licence to stockholders and black marketers”, Mann said: “I am surprised he (Badal) is objecting to the Ordinances while his party is enjoying the powers of the ministry in the Centre. They (Akalis) should have sacrificed the ministry if they were so against the Ordinances, which they initially called ‘kamaal ka faisla’ and also invited Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to speak in favour of.”
Sukhbir Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur is Food Processing Industries Minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet. Badal, who sought to establish the credentials of the Akali Dal as a party representing farmers, said when the government brought the three Ordinances in June “his party’s representative in the Union Cabinet expressed reservations”.
“The government said the Ordinances were for benefit of farmers. In that case, these Ordinances should not have been brought in this way…they should have been brought after discussions. As a farmers’ party, we have always spoken for the community,” he said, also invoking the contributions of his father Parkash Singh Badal as a farmers’ leader to press his claim.
“Before bringing the Ordinances, parties and groups representing farmers should have been consulted. We were not asked before the Ordinances were brought in the Cabinet. Our representative in Cabinet said existing fears must be cleared. In the past two months I have talked to many farmers and arthtiyas and listened to their fears and suspicions regarding the Ordinances.”
Badal added that the three Ordinances will affect farmers in Punjab and Haryana where ‘mandi system’ exists. “I don’t know about others but our fears have not been addressed,” he said, urging the government, of which Akali Dal is a part, to reconsider. “We are not under any pressure, this is our belief that these fears should be addressed first,” he asserted.
In his reply, Minister of State Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Raosaheb Patil Danve said the legislation will help farmers progress, encourage those associated with the supply-chain and minimise processing and storage losses. “It will help in making of Atmanirbhar Bharat and ease of doing business,” he said.
The minister also said changes in the Act conformed with recommendations of the high-level committee of which States like Punjab and Haryana was a part. “Members are saying States were not consulted. Let me inform that before bringing the Ordinances a high-power committee of Chief Ministers was formed. The committee included States like Punjab, Odisha, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. The CMs, after taking into consideration all issues decided such a bill should be brought,” he said, adding that Punjab was represented by the Agriculture Minister in the Amarinder Singh government.
Earlier, several Opposition MPs, including Congress’ Fatehgarh Sahib MP Amar Singh insisted that the Bill will benefit big corporates and traders. “It is another attempt at coercive federalism to benefit to MNCs so that they can enter food trade,” they said. “The Ordinances are all connected, which is why farmers are protesting in Punjab and Haryana. The Punjab government and political parties have passed a resolution against Ordinances,” Amar Singh said registering strong opposition to the legislation.
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