The Kerala Assembly on Thursday passed a unanimous resolution demanding the repeal of all the three contentious agricultural laws enacted by the Centre in September.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan introduced the resolution which was passed by voice vote with all 140 MLAs supporting it.
Significantly, the lone BJP member in the House, O Rajagopal, also voted in favour of the resolution though he had spoken against it.
“I supported the substance of the resolution in accordance with the democratic spirit, but I had differences of opinion with certain words used in the resolution, which I pointed out during my speech,” said Rajagopal, the MLA from Nemom.
When reporters pointed out the conflict of interest he faces as a BJP MLA backing a resolution which demands the repeal of the farm laws, he replied vaguely, “There would be no issues. In a democratic system, some compromises will have to be made.”
‘Centre wants to corporatise the system’
Chief Minister Vijayan in his address to the Assembly, said the solution to middlemen cheating farmers is decentralisation of the storage system, not corporatisation.
“The Centre wants to corporatise the system. Farmers are agitating because of livelihood issues. The Government of India has the responsibility to fully engage in talks with them. Instead of asking the farmers to end their protest, the Centre must come forward and try to allay their concerns through talks,” Vijayan said.
“From the newspapers today, it seems the Centre has made some promises during the talks like power subsidies, fines on stubble farming. But the central issue remains that of repealing the three laws. The protesters are firm on it and that’s the need of the country. So, the true concerns of the farmers have not been solved yet. The Centre must not see this as an issue of honour. Instead, as a protest that has drawn support from across the country, the Centre must recognise the public sentiment and take steps to withdraw the laws,” he added.
The Chief Minister pointed out that Kerala is the first state in the country to declare a ‘base price’ for 16 varieties of vegetables, as a measure of supporting farmers and encouraging them to increase their production. He said the state also spent Rs 8,900 crore on the ‘Subhiksha Keralam’ project under the aegis of various local rural and urban bodies with the aim of achieving self-sufficiency by turning barren land into farms.
Kerala Congress leader PJ Joseph said the state must speak in one voice against the “invasion” of the state’s rights by the Centre as agriculture is a state subject.
“Just like farmers in north India are agitating in the harsh winter, people in Kerala must stage strong protests. (The laws) are aimed at destroying the state’s public distribution system. There should be minimum support price for all varieties that Kerala produces like rubber, coconut, cinnamon and turmeric,” he said.
‘Appeasement policy’ criticised
At the same time, the principal opposition Congress, while criticising the farm laws, also took potshots at the LDF government for trying to appease the Governor even when he had “broken” the constitutional laws by denying permission for a special Assembly session on December 23.
“When the Governor broke his constitutional obligations (of approving the decision of the state cabinet to convene an Assembly session to discuss farm laws), there should have been strong protests. Instead, the government sent two of its ministers with a Christmas cake to the Raj Bhavan, falling at the Governor’s feet, to appease him. Was it necessary?” senior Congress MLA KC Joseph said.
To which the CM responded, “It is the constitutional obligation of the government to inform the Governor about key issues that he may have doubts about. It doesn’t need to be seen as falling at the feet of the Governor. KC Joseph has an otherwise good understanding of constitutionality. I don’t understand why he said so.”
‘BJP government an insult to the country’
IUML MLA TA Ahmed Kabeer said the farm laws of the Centre will take India back to the British-era.
“This BJP government is an insult to the country. There must be a line in the resolution against the ingratitude that the Prime Minister is showing to the country, its people and its farmers,” he said.
BJP MLA Rajagopal spoke against the resolution, stating that the farm laws are intended to benefit the farmers in the long run. “By eliminating the middlemen and commission agents, the laws will empower the farmers to sell their products anywhere.
Those opposing these laws are standing against the interests of farmers. The provisions in these laws have been cited by the Congress in its manifesto and by the CPM in its resolutions. The farm laws are aimed at doubling the earnings of the farmers. Some people here think that they will get satisfaction only by criticising Modi. Let that be,” he said.