The Rajya Sabha witnessed an explosive debate today over two of three farm bills - which were passed by voice vote after unprecendeted chaos - 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 two bills passed today - all three sailed through the Lok Sabha earlier this week - 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".
Members standing against the bills accused the government of signing a "death warrant" for farmers and trying to destroy the agriculture sector. They also demanded that the bills be sent to a select committee for review. MPs in support of the bill followed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in accusing the opposition of deliberately misleading the farmers.
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)".
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".
HD Devegowda (Janata Dal (Secular))
"PM Modi should explain why there is a hurry to pass the bills amid pandemic. He should explain what would farm bills do for farming community in short and long term, and how it will help in achieving government's goal of doubling farmers' income".
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".
After the bills were passed Mr O'Brien called it "the murder of democracy".
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".
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"
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?"
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. The protests included one by the Akali Dal, who pulled their sole representative from the Union Cabinet - Harsimrat Kaur Badal - over this issue and are reviewing their ties with the BJP-led NDA.