Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigns as Union Cabinet Minister for Food Processing

Lok Sabha takes up 2 more farm sector related Bills amid widespread protests
Harsimrat Kaur
Harsimrat Kaur, File Photo

New Delhi, September 17: Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Thursday resigned from the Cabinet in protest against farm sector related Bills.

“Shiromani Akali Dal member and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal will resign from government in protest against farm Bills,” party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal earlier said in Lok Sabha as the Modi government tabled two more farm-sector related Bills in the lower house amid widespread protests by farmers.

“We oppose it,” Sukhbir Badal said.

Shiromani Akali Dal, an ally of the BJP and NDA partner, had protested against the first of three such Bills on September 15 as well.

Justifying the Bills, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh termed them as revolutionary for farmers and provide independence farmers, who will be free to sell produce outside anywhere.

The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) will not be violated and will remain in states, Tomar said. Farmer will be allowed to sell farm produce from anywhere and need not just rely on the existing systems of the mandis. Outside the mandi, there will be no tax of Centre or state’s.

Ravneet Singh Bittu, Congress MP from Ludhiana, opposed the Bills and termed the three Bills as ‘black laws’ and asked the Central Government: “why are you intervening, agriculture is a state subject”. He asked Harsimrat Kaur Badal to resign from the Cabinet and asked Sukhbir Badal to show what protest was made by Harsimrat at the Cabinet meeting.

Bittu asked the government to not implement this in Punjab and Haryana, and try it out in other states. Punjab, he said, was border state, “don’t needle it. Sometime you raise SYL and then you come up such Bills”.

Earlier on September 16, the Lok Sabha cleared the ‘Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020’, amid strong objection from Opposition MPs, who termed the move “anti-farmer and pro-hoarder and pro-corporate”.

The Lok Sabha that assembled for the day at 3 pm on Thursday was adjourned till 4 pm following obituary reference to Tirupati Lok Sabha MP Balli Durga Prasad Rao. He was undergoing treatment for COVID-19 and died at a hospital in Chennai on Wednesday.

The House took up the ‘The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020’. The government says the Bill will provide for the creation of an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers’ produce which facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade and commerce of farmers’ produce outside physical premises of markets or deemed markets notified under various state agricultural produce market legislations; to provide a facilitative framework for electronic trading.

Political parties, farmer bodies and others in Punjab and Haryana which have established systems of mandis have objected to this new system fearing that the government could abolish the systems of minimum support price (MSP). The government on September 15 assured the House that the MSP would continue.

The second legislation called the ‘Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020’ is also listed for business on Thursday.

The government says the Bill will provide for a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner.

In Punjab, the incumbent Congress government has protested against the Bills. In Haryana, the Jananayak Janta Party (JJP) which is an ally of the BJP in Haryana is unhappy over the development.

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