Amid nationwide vehement protests against the passing of agriculture “reform”, Indian president Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to all the contentious 3 farm bills passed by Parliament during its monsoon session. The three bills – The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Bill, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 – have now become acts. Modi’s government, presented as “landmark legislations will make farmers self-reliant” aiming at giving “freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside the notified APMC market yards (mandis). The government says this is aimed at facilitating remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels. While more than a dozen opposition parties qualified them as “anti-Farmers and corporate friendly”. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) even pulled out of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition at the Centre over the passage of the contentious farm bills, which the Punjab-based party said were “lethal and disastrous”. The SAD and the BJP had been allies since 1996 when both forged a pre-poll alliance ahead of the 1997 Punjab assembly elections which brought them to power.

The epicenter of protests of Farmers is essentially in the two main states, Punjab and Haryana, where the farm reforms is considered a way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporate and agribusiness.  

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, seeks to give farmers the right to enter into a contract with agribusiness firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for the sale of future farming produce at a pre-agreed price. And the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, seeks to remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onion, and potato from the list of essential commodities and will do away with the imposition of stock holding limits.

Farmers groups and political parties plan to intensify protests against the three farm bills that were signed into law on Sunday by President Ram Nath Kovind, who ignored demands that he withhold his assent to the legislation. Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh will stage a sit-in protest against the contentious laws on Monday at Khatkar Kalan, the ancestral village of freedom fighter Shaheed Bhagat Singh, on his birth anniversary. Others participating in the protest are state affairs in-charge Harish Rawat, all state Congress MPs and MLAs, said the Congress party’s Punjab unit chief Sunil Jakhar on Sunday.

Farmers block the road in protest against the passing of agriculture reform bills in the Parliament, at Rohtak-Chandigarh National Highway, near Brahaman Bass village, in Rohtak, Haryana.
Indian farmers blocking roads with their tractors

This will be Amarinder Singh’s first protest against the farm bills. Former Uttarakhand chief minister and Congress general secretary Rawat will also be visiting Punjab for the first time since taking charge of state affairs. Punjab cabinet minister Charanjit Singh Channi and Nawanshahr MLA Angad Singh visited a Bhagat Singh memorial on Sunday to oversee arrangements for Monday’s sit-in. Channi said the Congress was on the verge of launching a long-term campaign against the Central government over the farm bills from Bhagat Singh’s village, with more plans expected to be announced by the CM to compel the Centre to withdraw the legislation.

Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher demanded that all the sitting 13 MPs from Punjab resignation their seats with immediate effect in support of the farmers’ demands. He asserted that BJP leaders would not be allowed to enter the villages of Punjab.The committee has announced an extension of its campaign against the bills till September 29. Trains services have been suspended in the state because of the protests.

To follow