Unfair tactics: Passing farm bills in Parliament
Sir — The Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre has rushed three farm bills through the Rajya Sabha amid a great ruckus. The manner in which the bills, which are of existential importance for millions of farmers, were passed brings dishonour upon democracy. Much of the blame for the unprecedented scenes on the floor of the House must be borne by the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and the Centre. In keeping with the democratic spirit, the Centre should have agreed to refer the bills to a select panel for greater scrutiny and consultation. The deputy chairperson clearly erred in allowing the fate of the bills to be decided by ‘voice vote’ when the Opposition favoured a ‘division’, or actual voting, denying people the opportunity to know for certain who were for and who were against the bills.
The purportedly grand reforms will most likely reintroduce the old zamindari system in a new, insidious form. Linked directly to the market forces, farmers will eventually be reduced to being farm slaves. Dignity of labour will become a casualty of contract farming, which is nothing but a euphemism for the corporatization of agriculture. Farmers and corporate behemoths cannot be on an equal footing when it comes to negotiating contracts on, say, the trade of farm produce. Further, there is a chance that the technology about which the prime minister has boasted might rupture the cherished bond between the farmer and the land.
The passage of the farm bills sounds the death knell for the mandis run by the Agriculture Produce Market Committee. There is also the fear that this might be the end of the minimum support price regime. Few are gullible enough to believe that these farm laws will double the income of farmers as assured by the prime minister. It is also not clear how these laws will come to bear on the public distribution system and food security.
It is also wrong to claim that the new agricultural marketing reforms will give farmers ‘marketing freedom’ when these will actually make them vulnerable to exploitation by big agribusinesses. Most of the rural population makes a meagre living from agriculture; many of them voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party. The farmers of India have contributed to the growth of the gross domestic product by 3.4 per cent — the only bright spot on the GDP record. Surely they deserve better.
G. David Milton,
Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu
Sir — The way in which three important farm bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha was unprecedented in Indian democracy. The demand of the Opposition to send the bills for further discussion to a select committee was bypassed by the ruling of voice vote. The deputy chairman’s rejection of the Opposition plea for a switch-button was an undemocratic move. The Opposition was suppressed by marshals as the bills were passed.
The Central government is slowly but steadily tightening the noose around the idea of democracy. It has been trying to bypass Parliament with regard to legislations on important matters, including those on the National Education Policy and the draft Environmental Impact Assessment notification. It is farcical that in the case of the farm bills, the Centre is steamrolling its decision by sheer muscle power while Parliament is in session.
Sir — It is difficult to believe that the system of voice voting is still legally a part of parliamentary proceedings. How can important decisions about the future of the nation be based on who can scream the loudest? As such, it was not surprising to see parliamentarians resort to unruly behaviour — one even tried to tear apart the rulebook — allegedly all in national interest. Any matter of significance should be resolved on the basis of reason and not rowdy behaviour. If parliamentarians continue to set such a precedent, then future generations will not have much to look up to. This is a mockery of statesmanship.
Sir — It was astonishing to learn that since the demonetization of the currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 in 2016, devotees have been ‘donating’ their obsolete notes to the Tirupati temple. Evidently, the government, led by a ruling party that seems to champion the cause of Hindutva, did not foresee that the ‘black money’ it claimed to have weeded out of the economy could land up in temples. The temple trust has now reportedly requested the finance minister to help monetize the old notes. If the notes are indeed validated, then the money should be used to alleviate the miseries of the needy.