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Two Indian State Chiefs Lock Horns on Twitter Amid Protests Against Farm Laws

© REUTERS / STRINGERFarmers run away as police fire tear smoke shells to disperse the protesting farmers as they try to march to Delhi to protest against farm bills passed by India's parliament, near Ambala, India, November 26, 2020
Farmers run away as police fire tear smoke shells to disperse the protesting farmers as they try to march to Delhi to protest against farm bills passed by India's parliament, near Ambala, India, November 26, 2020 - Sputnik International
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Two farm bills – the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Bill, 2020 and the Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 – were ratified by the Indian parliament in September this year. The laws aim at freeing up agricultural produce from the clutches of state marketing controls.

The state chiefs of Congress-governed Punjab and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-governed Haryana have engaged in a verbal spat on Twitter amid a protest march to Delhi by farmers against the new farm laws brought about by the Modi government. 

Farmers from the state of Punjab marching to Delhi on Thursday were stopped in various parts of Haryana, which shares a border with the national capital New Delhi. Water cannons and tear gas were also used at some protest sites in the state.

Taking to Twitter, Haryana state chief Manohar Lal Khattar trained his guns on Punjab chief Captain Amarinder Singh, advising him to stop "inciting" innocent farmers against the laws. Singh, in a curt reply to Khattar, said that the farmers in Haryana are also against the farm laws and marching to Delhi.

While making the suggestion, the BJP's Khattar also pointed out to Singh – a Congress party veteran – that the farm laws will not in any way take away the system of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the agriculture produce.

MSP is a system of state procurement at a price fixed by the government. This ensures a guaranteed off-take for the farmers. Khattar even declared he would leave politics if the MSP system was compromised. 

​Khattar continued his tirade against the Punjab state chief and urged him not to indulge in "cheap politics" during a pandemic. 

​The bills in question are the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Bill, 2020 and the Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. The former allows farmers to sell their produce at places apart from their designated APMC market. The latter facilitates contract farming for the farmers, allowing them to enter into supply agreements with private firms. 

Opposition parties led by the Congress party are against the bills, with the contention that the government is replacing the age-old system of price assurances through MSPs and is leaving farmers at the mercy of corporates, who may have the upper hand in commanding high prices for agri produce.

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