Amid an uproar in Parliament, Indian lawmakers on Sunday approved a pair of controversial agriculture bills that the government says will boost growth in the farming sector through private investments.
But Modi's food processing minister from an alliance party resigned on Thursday in protest calling the bills "anti-farmer", and the opposition parties have said farmers' bargaining power will be diminished by allowing retailers to have tighter control over them.
When the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar was replying to the discussion at 1 PM, Deputy Chairman Harivansh sought the House consent to extend the proceedings till the Minister's reply. When the House met again, the scene was no different and the Chair guarded by marshals continued the proceedings and the two Bills were passed with voice vote.
The Speaker adjourned the House after first trying to reason that the House has to take up a discussion on COVID-19 today and it was too important a matter to be postponed.
On account of COVID protocols, both houses assemble at different times these days to enable enough seats for MPs who are mandated to follow the two-yard social distancing measure.
Taking to Twitter, Rajnath Singh said, "With the passing of two landmark agriculture Bills in Rajya Sabha today, India has cemented the strong foundation for "Atmanirbhar Agriculture". The party is one of the Modi government's most trusted allies. "Government procurement will continue", Modi said. "If farmers sell outside, who will ensure that they are paid the promised price?" a Maharashtra state official said.
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Asked about the decision of BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal to quit the Modi government in protest against the farm bills, he said there are some "political reasons" behind certain decisions. The government hopes that its new policy will double farmers' income by 2022. The bills passed by Parliament liberate the farmers from such adversities. "They want to suppress the voice of farmers in the House", he added.
Farmers have always been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country's 1.4 billion people. But they've also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades.
Once accounting for a third of India's GDP, farmers now account for only 15 percent of the country's $2.9 trillion economy.
If big institutions start purchasing directly from farmers, state governments will lose out on the tax that these buyers have to pay at wholesale markets, Malik said. Several protests by farmers were reported against the bills in northern India on Sunday.
Many factors are believed to contribute to farmer suicides, including poor crop yields, financial devastation or debt, and a lack of community support.
Sometimes they stage sit-ins or dump truckloads of vegetables onto highways to disrupt traffic.