Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which seeks to deregulate food items, including cereals, pulses and onion, a move aimed at transforming the farm sector and raising farmers' income.
However, the opposition raised objection over the structure of the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, saying it favours big corporates and against the farmers, the government managed to pass it due to its majority in the Lower House.
Participating in the debate, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, an ally of the ruling BJP, spoke about "misgivings" and "doubts" among farmers on the bill and two other proposed legislations related to the farm sector.
The Centre should withhold these legislations and work to address the concerns of farmers, he said.
Farmers in many states, including Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against these bills.
Terming the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020, a "direct and deliberate assault" by the Centre on the interests of the farmers, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said his Congress will challenge it in court.
Riding roughshod over the concerns of the farmers, the Modi government, of which the Shiromani Akali Dal is a constituent, has imposed a Central law on a state subject, thus eroding the federal structure of the country, he said.
"We will challenge it in court," he said.
Asserting that he will not allow the interests of the farmers to be compromised in this "shameless" manner, Amarinder Singh claimed the enactment of the legislation is clearly a step towards abolition of the MSP regime.
"It is a conspiracy on the part of the BJP-led NDA government to destroy Punjab and its farmers," he said, declaring that the Congress will fight this attack on the state's interests tooth and nail.
"The legislation talks of encouraging competition among farmers. Do they really expect the poor farmers, who are only competing with themselves for survival every day, to rival big corporates for protecting their interests?" he asked.
The government has already brought ordinances, and the bills seek parliamentary nod for them.
Trinamool Congress' Saugata Roy and Kalyan Banerjee also opposed the bill and accused the Centre of taking away the power of the states.
"I don't understand what was the hurry of bringing the ordinance," Roy said, and claimed the legislation will benefit big traders, while the farmers would be left in the lurch.
"It will give big corporates entry into the space of farmers," the TMC leader said.
D M Kathir Anand of the DMK also opposed the bill, while Kaushalendra Kumar of the JD(U) supported it, saying the proposed legislation will benefit farmers as they won't have to sell their agriculture produce at lower prices.
P P Chaudhary (BJP) said the legislation will not only benefit farmers but also consumers and described it as a visionary step and the biggest reform in the agriculture sector.
Sanjeev Kumar Singari of the YSRCP welcomed the bill, saying farmers need better prices for their agriculture produce.
Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) was of the view that state interference in every stage is not a smart idea.
"Agriculture markets are over-regulated by outdated laws. India has now become surplus in most agriculture commodities but still there is very less investment in cold storage facilities," Mahtab said.
The government has to safeguard the interest of farmers, he noted. Mahtab also suggested that the government do away with export restrictions in the agriculture sector.
Kunwar Danish Ali (BSP) termed the bill as anti-farmers, and said it will benefit the middleman.
He alleged that the Modi government wants to privatise PSUs to benefit big industrialists.
"This bill is intended to give licence to hoarders," he alleged.