In a significant endorsement to the farm reforms initiated by the Central government, a Parliamentary panel comprising of the opposition party members on Friday had endorsed one of the three recently enacted farm laws. The panel urged Modi government to implement the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 in “letter and spirit”. However, soon after, the Congress MP from Koraput in Odisha, Saptagiri Sankar Ulaka, wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and claimed that he did not want to be associated with the committee’s latest recommendation.
In his letter, Ulaka said, “In fact, during the meeting on 16.12.2020, I expressed my opposition against the three farm laws to the Hon’ble Chairperson and the members of the Committee.
Written to Hon’ble @loksabhaspeaker to dissociate myself from the Eleventh Report of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution on the subject matter – ‘Price Rise of Essential Commodities – Causes and Effects’ tabled in Parliament on 19.03.2021. pic.twitter.com/qsuh5KC8tt— Saptagiri Ulaka (@saptagiriulaka) March 20, 2021
“The Draft Report on the subject matter was circulated only via e-mail by the related Section of the Committee at 19:00 hrs on 17.03.2021 and adopted between 10:00 hrs and 10:30 hrs on 18.03.2021, under Acting Chairperson Shri Ajay Misra Teni. He said the report was tabled in Parliament without recording his dissenting opinion. I was not present when the report was adopted as the meeting was called in a short notice of merely 15 hours,” he claimed.
Interestingly, the Lok Sabha website, mentions Ulaka’s name in the list of members who attended the committee meeting on March 18, the day the report was adopted.
However, Ulaka claims he did not attend the meet.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution recently tabled a report titled ‘Price Rise of Essential Commodities- Causes and Effects’ recommending the implementation of one of the three farm laws passed by the Modi government last year.
Interestingly, the Parliamentary panel headed by TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay comprised of MPs of parties that have opposed the three new farm laws. Apart from Bandyopadhyay, the panel included another TMC MP, a nominated MP, 13 BJP MPs, 4 Congress MPs and one parliamentarian from DMK, BJD, Shiv Sena, AAP, TRS, YSRCP, JD(U), NCP, NPF, PMK and BSP each.
The Parliamentary committee expressed hope that the recently enacted The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 will become a “catalyst” for unlocking vast untapped resources in the farm sector.
Extending the support for the Essential Commodities Act, the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution with 15 opposition party members in its report to Parliament said, “The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 which was aimed at addressing the issue will become a catalyst for unlocking vast untapped resources in the agriculture sector by creating an environment for enhanced investments in agriculture sector, fair and productive competition in agricultural marketing and increase farmers’ income.”
The report further noted, “They, therefore, recommend the Government to implement the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 in letter and spirit, and without let or hindrances so that the farmers and other stakeholders of farming sector in this country receive the benefits intended under the said Act. Noting further that foodstuffs such as potato, onions and pulses 63 are part of a common man’s daily diet and that lakhs of people who do not get the benefits of Public Distribution System (PDS) may suffer adversely in the aftermath of the implementation of the new Act, the Committee also desire the Government to continue to keep a constant watchful eye on the prices of all essential commodities and to resort to the remedial provisions provided in the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 when called for.”
It is worth mentioning that on June 5, President Ram Nath Kovind had promulgated three ordinances – The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.
In September, the centre introduced three bills to replace these ordinances, which both Houses cleared of Parliament in the Monsoon Session of Parliament, they were signed into law by the President on September 27. One of the three farm laws – The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 specifies that the supply of foodstuffs including cereals, pulses, potato, edible oilseeds, and oils shall be regulated only under exceptional circumstances such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity of a grave nature.
According to the Centre, the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 has been amended to ensure that the farmers get a good price on many commodities.
However, as soon as the farm bills were passed by the government, the opposition parties took to streets to protest against the farm reforms initiated by the government. The opposition parties, joined by a few ‘farmer’ associations from Punjab, have hit the streets to demand the repel of the law and are now currently camping outside borders of national capital causing massive inconvenience to the public.
The opposition parties have extended their support to these so-called protests against the Modi government, which have been continuing for over three months now. Three months after supporting the alleged farmer cause by opposing the farm laws, it seems like some of the opposition parties may have had a change of heart on the particular issue and are slowly endorsing the farm reforms initiated by the Modi government.
Parliamentary panel report on Farm Laws
Reportedly, the Congress Lok Sabha MP from Kasaragod, Rajmohan Unnithan, has also written to the Lok Sabha Speaker, Rajya Sabha Chairman and chairman of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution saying he did not attend the meet in which the farm laws were endorsed.
Speaking to Indian Express, Unnithan said that the committee’s meeting had earlier been postponed twice due to lack of quorum. “This time, they held the meeting on March 17, which I could not attend. I have written to the Speaker to dissociate myself from the report,” he added.
Two other Congress members – Ve. Vaithilingam and Rajmani Patel were also part of the panel. The Lok Sabha records suggest that Rajmani Patel had attended the meeting. Congress MP Vaithilingam, however, did not attend the Parliamentary panel meet. Only 16 MPs, 13 MPs from Lok Sabha and 3 from Rajya Sabha, out of the 30 elected members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, were present at the meeting that was held on March 18.
Reportedly, TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay was also absent from the Standing Committee meeting. In his absence, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ajay Misra Teni presided over the committee. Opposition party members – AAP MP Bhagwant Mann, who had vociferously raised slogans inside the parliament against three farm laws, NCP MP Fauzia Khan and Shiv Sena MP Rajendra Dhedya Gavit were present at the meeting that endorsed one of the farm laws.
Meanwhile, BJP MP Teni said to the media that no member of the committee gave me the dissent note and said that the report was adopted with the consensus of all members.