Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union Minister for food processing, on Thursday quit the Modi government as her party, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), opposed the farm bills which intend to liberalise the agriculture sector. Harsimrat Kaur Badal was SAD's only minister in the Modi government. The Punjab-based party is one the oldest ally of the ruling BJP.
The move came just before the bills were passed by the Lok Sabha. Badal, however, had attended the Cabinet meeting that cleared the bills.
On Monday, the Narendra Modi government brought three farm bills - The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill - to replace three ordinances promulgated by the government in the past. While Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 was passed by Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the other two were passed by the Lower House on Thursday.
The SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal made this announcement in the Lok Sabha that the minister will quit the Modi government in protest against the three farm bills tabled by the Centre in Parliament.
"I announce that Harsimrat Kaur Badal will resign from the government," he said in Lok Sabha.
He, however, said that the SAD would continue to support the BJP-led central government, but will oppose the anti-farmer policies.
In his speech during a discussion on two of the farm bills - the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, Sukhbir Singh Badal said the proposed laws will "destroy" the 50 years of hard work done by successive Punjab governments to build the farm sector.
He recalled Punjab's massive contribution in making India self-sufficient in food grain production as he vehemently opposed the bills.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal confirmed her resignation from Modi government via Twitter. "I have resigned from Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter and sister," she tweeted.
The government believes that these policies will free farmers from the existing government-controlled markets and prices, and that they can enter into agreements with private parties for a better price of their produce.
However, farmers fear that these bills would pave the way for dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system and leave the farming community at the "mercy" of big corporates. Over the last few weeks, farmers have organised protests in several parts of Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Rajasthan, among others, against these bills.
With PTI inputs