The Rajya Sabha witnessed an explosive debate today over the three controversial farm bills that have triggered widespread protests and led to a stand-off between the ruling BJP and the Akali Dal, one of its oldest allies.
The bills were presented by Narendra Singh Tomar, the Union Minister for Agriculture, who declared them "historic" legislations that would "bring a change in the lives of farmers".
However, members against the bills accused the government of signing a "death warrant" and trying to destroy farmers and the agriculture sector. They also demanded that the bills be sent to a select committee for review.
The government has said the bills will help small and marginal farmers secure competitive prices. Farmers are concerned the bills eliminate the Minimum Support Price (MSP) now guaranteed by the government. The opposition worry the bills will benefit corporate interests at the expense of farmers.
All three bills sailed through the Lok Sabha earlier this week after a voice vote and an opposition walk out.
Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister (Agriculture and Farmers Welfare)
"The two bills are historic and will bring a change in the lives of the farmers. The farmers will be able to freely trade their produce anywhere in the country. I want to assure the farmers that these Bills are not related to Minimum Support Price (MSP)".
Rahul Gandhi (Congress)
"With the anti-agriculture 'black law' of Modi government, farmers: 1. How will the MSP be received at the end of APMC / Kisan Market? 2. Why MSP not guaranteed? PM Modi is making farmers 'slaves' of the capitalists, which the country will never let succeed".
Naresh Gujral (Shiromani Akali Dal)
"These Bills should be sent to a select committee so that all stakeholders can be heard...Don't think that the farmers of Punjab are weak".
Partap Singh Bajwa (Congress)
"We will not sign on this death warrant of farmers. Agriculture markets are a state subject. APMC and MSP should not be tinkered with... unable to understand why there is a need to bring this bill at the time when the country is fighting a pandemic and its neighbour along LAC. Mr Tomar has spoken to his alliance partners... did he speak to any stakeholders? Why can't you start this from Gujarat first? If it is a success, others will follow".
Derek O'Brien (Trinamool Congress)
"PM said that the opposition is misleading the farmers. You (centre) said (you would) double farmer income by 2022. But at current rates farmer income will not be doubled before 2028. Your credibility is low to make promises".
Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party)
"It appears that there is a compulsion that the ruling party doesn't want a debate or discussion on these Bills. They are only rushing through these bills. You have not even consulted any farmer associations".
Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena)
"Can the Government assure the country that after the passing of the agriculture reform Bills, farmers' income will double and no farmer will commit suicide?....A special session should be called to discuss these Bills".
TKS Elangovan (DMK)
"Farmers who contribute at least 20% to the total GDP of the country, will be made slaves by these Bill. It will kill the farmers and make them a commodity".
Anil Vij (BJP)
"Opposition parties have mislead led the farmers for their own political gains. The PM has assured farmers of MSP. Farmers will be able to freely trade their produce anywhere. During this pandemic, blocking roads in protest is not correct".
Bhupender Yadav (BJP)
"I want to ask why has rural income reduced in the years you (Congress) were in power...Why are you opposing these bills?"