Indian lawmakers approved a pair of controversial agriculture bills that the government says will boost growth in the farming sector through private investments.
The two bills were approved even though most opposition parties and some allies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi called them anti-farmer.
The legislation is aimed at reforming India’s deeply stressed farming sector and will give farmers freedom to market their produce; Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said while tabling the proposed laws in the upper house of Parliament. The bills are also aimed at removing middlemen from the farm trade and making farming market-oriented; the government has said.
The upper house passed two out of three bills; amid a war of words between ruling lawmakers and those opposing the legislation.
The third bill, intended to be part of the farm liberalization plan; could not be taken up because the upper house adjourned for the day amid chaotic scenes; with opposition lawmakers tearing documents and also shouting slogans against the bills.
The lower house had approved all three bills on Thursday.
The passed bills will have to be signed by India’s ceremonial president; a formality before becoming law.
On Thursday, Shiromani Akali Dal party lawmaker Harsimrat Kaur resigned as minister for food processing in protest against the bills. The party is one of the Modi government’s most trusted allies.
Tomar sought to allay critics of the legislation; by saying that the government’s market intervention policy to procure agriculture crops from farmers will continue.
The policy insures farmers against any sharp fall in prices of their agricultural produce.
However, the opposition leaders launched scathing attacks on the government; calling the legislation “black law” as well as “pro-corporate.”
Rahul Gandhi, a top leader of the main opposition Congress party, said in a tweet Sunday that Modi “is making farmers ‘slaves’ of the capitalists; which the country will never allow to succeed.”
The government has projected that its massive support plans in the agriculture sector will double farmers’ income by 2022.