Ugly scenes in Parliament

On Sunday, the Rajya Sabha passed The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020.
The government’s hideous hurry to pass the legislations resulted in unseemly scenes in the Rajya Sabha, with the rule book being flung at the chair, microphones broken; members climbing atop the secretary general’s table and even the Lok Sabha had to be adjourned because of the sit-in protest by Rajya Sabha members. Parliament is all about the Opposition. When 12 Opposition parties seek a vote on resolutions against the Bills, the Chair should have allowed the division; instead, the resolutions were denied and the Bills passed with a mere voice vote, devaluing the entire process.
The reforms are significant, affecting a range of stakeholders, particularly farmers. They have also generated a political backlash, with even partners in the ruling coalition such as the Shiromani Akali Dal resigning from the Cabinet on the issue.
The Opposition was keen on sending the bills to a select committee. Ideally, this should be done — for the committee process provides an opportunity to examine legislation, refine it, and allows parliamentarians to speak up without being confined to party positions. But if the government was not willing to embark on that process, there should have been a discussion in the House where members got a chance to offer their perspectives and the government listened to feedback and made modifications accordingly.
Unfortunately, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, did not get the solidarity they deserved. The only sector in the Indian economy that survived the COVID-19 contraction is now being forced to suffer needless anxiety, with the government refusing to address farmers’ legitimate apprehensions. Their fears have only worsened after the Opposition’s demand to send the Bills to a select committee for parliamentary scrutiny was denied and dumped.
 

- Prabhakar Purandare

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