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Columnist says Foreign Policy editors had forced him to write that the farm laws were “rammed through the Indian Parliament” by Modi govt

"The Editors insisted on it. Publishing is a compromise. Sorry!", the author Salvatore Babones replied when one reader objected to the claim that the farm laws were rushed through parliament

Days after American news publication Foreign Policy (FP) published an article insinuating that the Modi government rushed the farm laws through the Parliament, it has now come to light that the Editors of the publication had forced the columnist to make the exaggerated claim. This informed by the author of the article himself in his Telegram channel in a chat with another person.

On Tuesday (March 30), FP posted an article titled, “India’s Rich Farmers are Holding Up Reforms Designed to Help the Poor.” While the article debunked most of the Western propaganda about farm laws, the columnist Salvatore Babones cast aspersions about the manner in which the farm laws were passed in the Indian Parliament. “Rammed through the Indian Parliament in September on voice votes with little opportunity for a proper legislative scrutiny, the three bills sparked pandemonium in the upper house,” the article claimed.

Screengrab of the Foreign Policy document

It must be mentioned that the ruling BJP enjoys an absolute majority in the Lower House of the Parliament and they were easily passed in Lok Sabha. When the Bill was placed before the Rajya Sabha, Opposition parties created a ruckus in the Upper House. They broke the Deputy Chairman’s mic, tore the rule book and even manhandled and shoved the marshals on-duty. When the House reconvened, a voice vote was taken to determine those in support/against the Motion.

The Bill was thus passed in both the Houses of the Parliament and received the President’s assent to become a law. The farm laws, thus, followed the true democratic spirit and the mandate given by the people to the incumbent Modi government. The insinuation that the Centre somehow circumvented the Parliament or rushed through it is far from the reality.

Foreign Policy columnist succumbs to pressure tactics of Editors

Screengrab of the messages

When OpIndia joined the writer’s Telegram channel, we found a message in the group by the same columnist. He wrote, “Read my latest for Foreign Policy…it’s sure to cause controversy. Comments welcome!” While complimenting him for striking a balance, another user S Verma said, “Thank you for a balanced article. I will take exception to the statement that the Bills were rushed through the Parliament. These issues have been on the backburner for several years.”

Screengrab of the messages

The columnist of the Foreign Policy article replied to this comment, “The Editors insisted on it. Publishing is a compromise. Sorry!” He thus conceded that the Editors of the American news outlet made him add the contentious line, which creates doubt about the manner in which the laws came into existence. While Editors of foreign news publication with vested interests often allow or facilitate the publication of factually incorrect statements, it is one of the rare occasions when a columnist has openly acknowledged it.

Farm laws enacted by the Modi government

Realising the inadequacies in the existing APMC acts of various states to offer a proper marketing mechanism for the farmers to sell their produce, the Narendra Modi government in 2014 had announced a unified National Agriculture Market (NAM). NAM is a pan-India electronic trading portal that seeks to connect existing APMCs and other market yards to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. Continuing the reform agenda, the Modi government introduced three farm laws to promote much easier trade for the farm produce and to provide a competitive market for the producers outside the existing APMC system.

The three bills introduced by the Modi government in the last year were – The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Earlier, these reforms were announced as part of the third tranche of the economic package announced under Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

The new bills passed by the Parliament gave effect to the amendments proposed to the Essential Commodities Act and brought about two new central laws on trading and marketing of farm produce in the country. The objective of the three proposed laws was to make way for creating the Modi government’s ambitious vision of ‘One India, One Agriculture Market’. The law intended to end the monopoly of Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in carrying out the trade of farm produce in the country. 

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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