Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad today asked the government to withdraw the three contentious farm bills without making it a prestige issue. Declaring that disrespect to the national flag cannot be tolerated, he also condemned the violence at Red Fort during the farmers' tractor rally on Republic Day.
Participating in the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address in the Rajya Sabha, he suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself should make the announcement on repeal of the bills.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House at the time.
Mr Azad also made a case for restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir and holding assembly elections, saying that people of the area were not happy and development work had come to halt. In 2019, the erstwhile state was bifurcated into the union territories of Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.
Earlier in the day, five hours were added to the discussion on the president's address to also allow the raising of issues related to farm bills. The new farm laws have led to protests at border points of the national capital and several parts of the country.
"I urge the government to withdraw these three bills," he said, and added that the government should set up a committee to find out the whereabouts of people "who have gone missing" during the farmers' protest. The senior Congress leader cited several examples, including one during his own party's rule in 1988, of the government giving in to the demands of farmers.
Referring to the violence that broke out in Delhi during farmers tractor rally on January 26, the Congress leader said the entire opposition condemns the incident as "it is against democracy".
"Disrespect to the national flag cannot be tolerated," he said while demanding the strictest of actions against the culprits.
Highlighting the problems which farmers would face because of the new laws, Mr Azad said government should not see repealing of the legislations as a "prestige issue".
Describing farmers as "annadata" (food provider), the Congress leader said there was no point in confronting them. Instead, the government should focus on other important issues, including on revival of the economy.
Mr Azad also raised the issue of registration of cases under stringent provisions against certain media persons and also his party colleague Shashi Tharoor.
"Shashi Tharoor was minister of state for external affairs. He has represented the country outside. How can he be an anti-national...then we all are anti-nationals," he said, and demanded withdrawal of sedation cases against them in the interest of democracy.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at the Delhi borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, demanding a rollback of the three laws - Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The protesting farmers have expressed the apprehension that these laws would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving them at the "mercy" of big corporations.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)