New Delhi: India’s controversial farm bills become law as the President on Sunday approved them amid nationwide protests by farmers. On the other the farmers say that the new laws will stunt their bargaining power and allow large retailers to have control over pricing.
The farmers’ organisations say one of the three laws could lead to the government stopping buying grain at guaranteed prices. And the move would disrupt wholesale markets which have so far ensured fair and timely payments to farmers.
President Ram Nath Kovind’s approval is likely to further stir protests, leading farmers’ organisations said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already lost a key political ally from Punjab, one of India’s two bread basket states.
The country’s main opposition Congress party has also backed the protests.
Under the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill – one of the laws already approved by parliament – farmers can directly sell their produce to institutional buyers such as big traders and retailers.
Nearly 85% of India’s poor farmers own less than 2 hectares (5 acres) of land. So they find it difficult to directly negotiate with large buyers.
Modi’s administration has clarified that the wholesale markets will operate as usual. However the government only aims to empower farmers to sell directly to buyers.
SAD calls it a ‘dark day’
Calling it a “dark day”, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said the President refused to act as per the nation’s conscience.
“It’s really a dark day for India that the President has refused to act as the nation’s conscience. We were very hopeful that he would return these bills to Parliament for reconsideration as demanded by SAD and some other opposition parties,” Badal said while addressing party workers at Rupnagar.
On Friday, farmers in Haryana and Punjab took to the streets and blocked roads and highways by parking tractor-trolleys. A group of 31 farmer outfits in Punjab have already announced an indefinite “rail roko” protest from October 1.
On Sunday farmers continued to squat on the tracks in different parts of the state raising slogans against the Bills.