The Congress and several farmers’ outfits have decided to stage a nationwide stir against the newly-introduced farm bills in Parliament.
In a decision taken on Monday (September 21), the Congress said the signature of two crore farmers will be taken to file a memorandum against the legislations which will be submitted to President Ram Nath Kovind.
A press statement by the party said the marches to submit the memorandum to the governors will be held on September 28.
That apart, multiple protests have been planned by other political parties and farmers’ bodies on September 25. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) is slated to hold an all-India protest while the All India Kisan Sanghash Coordination Committee has called for a stir on the same day. At least 10 trade unions have offered their support for the same.
According to reports, the AAP will also support a farmers’ protest called by at least 30 farmers’ organisations in Punjab.
The bone of contention behind the protests is three farm bills, two of which were recently passed in both houses of Parliament amid vehement protests from Opposition parties. The bills now need the consent of the President to become law.
Meanwhile, eight Rajya Sabha MPs who were suspended from the House for creating a ruckus during the passage of the bills, have been staging a sit-in on Parliament premises since Monday evening.
At a meeting of Congress general secretaries and state in-charges in New Delhi, a resolution hitting out at the three farm bills — the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 – was passed.
The meeting, called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, was attended by the general secretaries and state in-charges of the party and was supervised by the members of the special committee assisting Sonia Gandhi in organisational and operational matters.
AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik and Randeep Surjewala are members of the special committee.
Rahul, however, is currently in the US with Sonia for her medical check-up. Leaders like Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jitin Prasad attended the meeting through video conferencing.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel later told the press that the party plans to hold district-level protest marches and a signature campaign that will touch base with almost two crore farmers.
“We discussed the political situation of the country especially the farmers’ agitation. The way the government of India is bulldozing anti-farmers laws in Parliament, it is totally unacceptable to the country and the people of India,” said Venugopal.
“What we had witnessed in Rajya Sabha yesterday and today, we did not expect this type of attitude from a democratic government,” he said, referring to the commotion in Rajya Sabha on Sunday and the suspension of eight MPs of the Upper House on Monday.
Surjewala also hit out at the government, alleging that the livelihood of farmers and labourers was “being ended”.
“First this government did notebandi, then with GST brought vyaparbandi, then with lockdown did deshbandi and is now planning khetbandi,” Surjewala alleged.
He said in the next 72 hours, Congress general secretaries, state in-charges and senior leaders will hold press conferences at state headquarters against the farm bills.
“Then in the next four days till September 28, Congress chief ministers, Pradesh Congress Committee presidents, Congress legislative party leaders along with MPs, MLAs and senior leaders will walk from the PCC office or a prominent place like Mahatma Gandhi statue to the Raj Bhavan and submit a memorandum to the governor, addressed to the President of India, seeking withdrawal of these farm bills,” Surjewala added.
“On October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri, we will observe Save farmers and farm labourers day. We will hold dharnas and marches in every state and district headquarters across India against the agriculture bills, asking for their immediate withdrawal,” Venugopal said.
“On October 10, all state units will organise kisaan sammelans so that the voices of farmers can be heard,” he said.
Surjewala said from October 2-31, Congress workers will go to villages and collect signatures from farmers and the poor against the three agriculture-related bills.
Two crore signatures will be collected and the memorandum against the bills will be submitted to the President on Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth anniversary on November 14 by the Congress chief, he said.
Surjewala asked how the farmers will get MSP once “the APMC or the farmers markets are abolished”. Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic ₹1,13,000 crore was given as MSP to farmers in Rabi for wheat, dhan, dalhan and tilhan, Surjewala claimed the prime minister “does not even know” that dhan and arhar (dalhan) are Kharif crops and not Rabi.
However, the crops the PM talked about are grown in Rabi season in some parts of the country, according to agriculture experts.
The Congress also accused Shiromani Akali Dal of double-speak and of being dishonest on the farm bills and asked why they have not left the ruling National Democratic Alliance.
(With inputs from agencies)