Uproar over Farm Bills in Rajya Sabha, Odisha’s Stance

The Monsoon Session of the Parliament, convened after a hiatus of several months amidst the pandemic, has certainly not been very kind towards the ruling government. With an onslaught of questions and controversies coming up right from the first day, the government has got itself into yet another quagmire as it tried to bulldoze its way through the Houses of Parliament. In its latest worry, the government met with huge din and uproar from opposition benches in the Rajya Sabha alongside nationwide farmer protests, while seeking to ratify the Farm Bills.

The three bills, all related to agricultural produce and augmenting the way farmers have formerly interacted with the agri-market, were conceptualised after radical reforms were drawn post the introduction of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat scheme. The bills, which replace the multitude of ordinances promulgated during the lockdown, are the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and the Essential Commodities Amendment Bill, 2020.

One of the tectonic shifts brought into the agricultural market was the decision to do away with the hegemony of the ‘mandis’, which gained significant traction under the tutelage of the APMC act. The new bill will permit the farmers to be able to sell their products anywhere in the country, without any form of barriers. Furthermore, contract farming – a key feature of agrarian business models observed in the west – have also been incorporated to drive up productivity rates, as well as for facilitating technological support at the grassroots level. However, detractors have raised concerns over the safeguarding of the rights of the farmer – most notably highlighting unanswered questions on the perils of privatisation of the agricultural sector. In an unexpected move, Shiromani Akali Dal member Harsimrat Kaur Badal – who also held a Cabinet portfolio with the NDA government – quit her post in protest of the government’s attempts to go through with the bill.

Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) opposed the passing of the Bills in the Rajya Sabha. The party claimed that the bill does not envisage of adequate protection for the small and marginalised farmers, and recommended that the bills should be sent to a Select Committee for further fine-tuning before being pushed through the legislature. “The farm bills are largely good in intent but problem in implementations and there is a possibility of cartelisation. Are the bills only for big traders? asked BJD MP Amar Patnaik in Rajya Sabha.

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