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India's Prime Minister Modi Wheels Out Big Guns to Defend Controversial Farm Bills

© REUTERS / Altaf HussainFILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to the media in New Delhi, India, 18 November 2019.
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to the media in New Delhi, India, 18 November 2019.  - Sputnik International
India's Parliament has passed three controversial farm-reform Bills, which are now awaiting Presidential assent before becoming law. The Bills faced stiff resistance from opposition parties, farmers’ bodies and opposition-ruled state governments. The passage of proposed legislation also sparked acrimony between ruling and opposition lawmakers.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has wheeled out an array of ministerial big guns to defend the controversial farm Bills.

The Bills, awaiting a Presidential approval to become law, were passed amid protest and an absence of opposition lawmakers in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament.

The house also saw scenes of “unruly behaviour” by opposition lawmakers during the Bills' passage, leading to eight of them being suspended bringing about the premature end of the Monsoon session.

The big guns range from Modi's Man Friday, Home Minister Amit Shah, through Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Textiles, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani to Communication, Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“The protests against [proposed legislation] represent political dishonesty and the influence of middlemen, considering that [the Bills] together with changes in the Essential Commodities Act to remove the cap on stock holdings, can herald a New Deal for the agriculture sector,” wrote Shah in an article in an English newspaper The Times of India.   

Tomar slammed the main opposition Congress party for “making baseless arguments to mislead the nation”.

​Irani also criticised the Congress party for its double-speak on the farm Bills.

​Prasad denounced opposition to the legislation as being politically motivated. He said in an interview to The Indian Express, that the Congress party in its 2019 election manifesto had said it would rationalise the Market Place, or Mandi, Act and create the chance for farmers to sell their produce anywhere.

​The ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party also launched a publicity blitz in favour of the legislations.

​Chief of Madhya Pradesh state Shivraj Singh Chauhan also came out in support of the Bills saying that those who were in opposition to them were enemies of farmers.

​Chauhan’s Communist Party counterpart in Kerala state, on the other hand, said that the state is thinking of challenging the legislation in the Bills. The law department has been asked to look into the matter: Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan (File pic) #AgricultureBills pic.twitter.com/Sq3U8lOUFP

​Meanwhile, farmers continued their protests in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Karnataka and several other states. A large number of farmers squatted on railway tracks in Punjab state’s Amritsar city as part of a “Stop the Train” demonstration against the farm Bills.

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