Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Friday said she never called the farm bills moved by the Narendra Modi government anti-farmer in what is seen as walking a tightrope between farmers’ interests and the SAD’s continuance in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
She said she had repeatedly asked the Central government to listen to concerns raised by the farmers and hold open discussions with them before tabling the bills in Parliament. The SAD leader quit the Cabinet on Thursday night as the debate over the bills grew animated and the government resolve behind the bills showed.
Badal said farmers feel that if the bills got passed they will be at the mercy of the private players. she added that the union government needs to take farmers’ concerns into consideration. However, on the question of her calling the bills anti-farmer, she said it does not matter what she thinks. She added the bills have come in Parliament for the benefit of the farmers and they must believe that it is in their benefit.
Badal’s husband and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said he strongly opposed the three agriculture-related bills in the Lok Sabha. Badal said the farm bills would sound the death knell for 20 lakh farmers, 3 lakh mandi labourers, 30 lakh labourers and 30,000 arhatiyas, besides destroying food grain procurement system established over 50 years.
On the other hand, the Modi government said the proposed laws are meant to help small and marginal farmers. Calling the day of passage of bills a historic day for the country in the field of agricultural reforms, PM Narendra Modi on Friday blamed the opposition for spreading lies and misleading farmers on the legislation.
However, the bills have triggered massive protests from farmers, particularly in Punjab and Haryana. The bills will replace three ordinances issued in June which will now be taken up by the Rajya Sabha. Many parties are targeting the government over these bills, including the Akali Dal, the oldest ally of the BJP.