The standing committee of the parliament recently backed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act of 2020 – one of the three farm laws. The parliamentary committee is the place for serious political discussion as compared to parliament itself because every Member of Parliament has to abide by the party whip, while the committees are a place for freewheeling policy discussion without ideological baggage. Therefore, the reports of the parliamentary committees are to be taken very seriously, irrespective of which MP heads it – a member of the opposition or the treasury benches.
The standing committee of the parliament on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution which is headed by the Leader of Trinamool Congress in Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandopadhyay, a five-term MP, recommended the implementation of the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 – one of the three farm laws.
The committee had a total of 13 members from Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha across the political spectrum, from AAP to National Conference to BJP to Congress. Bhagwant Mann, who was screeching in the parliament when Prime Minister Modi spoke in the parliament on the farm laws, is also a member of the committee. So, as far as the policy is concerned, there was a consensus that the farmers needed to be freed from APMCs.
The policy change to free the farmers was under discussion since the early 2000s, and the Vajpayee government prepared Model APMC laws. After that, the UPA government fully supported these laws and Sharad Pawar talked about incentivising the states who will implement the reforms. However, no government has the guts to implement these reforms at the pan-India level until the Modi government did it. And now, when the Modi government has implemented these laws, the opposition parties are opposing them for the sake of politics.
However, given the fact that the committees are avenues for actual policy discussion and policywise the law is good for the National Interest, every MP supported the farm laws. The panel said, “Farmers have been unable to get better prices of their produce due to lack of investment in cold storage, warehouses, processing and export as entrepreneurs were discouraged by the regulatory mechanisms in the older Essential Commodities Act, 1955.”
The hypocrisy of the opposition parties, especially of Congress, in this matter, is similar to the GST, Aadhar, and many other policy issues. GST was in discussion for almost three decades in the country and there have been many unsuccessful attempts to implement by many governments including Congress-led UPA. But, when the Modi government implemented it in 2017, the Congress party argued that this is not “perfect” and opposed it. Similarly, the Aadhar Card initiative, which was initiated by the Modi government, was vehemently opposed by the Congress party when the Modi government introduced it in parliament as a form of legislation.
NCP, whose patriarch wrote the letters to CMs of the state to implement the Vajpayee government model APMC act, is now criticising the Modi government for introducing the laws without building consensus. “The BJP regime has also failed to address many other issues in the new farm laws, which has led to large-scale protests and agitation by farmers across the country. The Modi regime could not form a broader consensus and has failed to satisfy legitimate apprehensions of the farmers and entire Opposition,” said NCP spokesperson Mahesh Tapase.
The opposition MPs supporting the farm laws in the committee and opposing them in the parliament shows that it is all about politics, not policy. It seems that opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee are ready to sacrifice the national interest for the sake of petty politics.