Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Friday asserted that the government's offer to amend the new farm laws to assuage farmers' sentiments did not mean they had any flaws even as opposition parties demanded fresh legislations with one Congress MP describing the acts as "death warrants" for farmers.
Putting up a vigorous defence of the three new agri laws in the Rajya Sabha in the face of a strident demand for their repeal and continuing protests by farmers, Tomar also said none from the protesting unions or their sympathisers have been able to point out any lacuna. Those opposing the farm laws are not willing to say what is black in these 'black laws' as termed by them for the government try rectify it, he added.
Several opposition members while demanding fresh laws after consultations also raised the issue of new fortifications at the sites of protests by farmers at the Delhi borders.
Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa, who said the farm laws were like "death warrants" for farmers, compared the barricades with the Berlin Wall that had divided the German city's east and west and concentration camps.
Intervening in the debate on the motion of thanks on the President's address, Tomar countered the claim by the Congress and other opposition parties that farmers across the country are agitated over the three laws, saying peasants of just one state are being misinformed and instigated.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will reply to the debate on Monday after Zero hour, lauded Tomar's remarks, saying he has given detailed information on every aspect of the legislations.
In a tweet, Modi posted a video link to Tomar's statement and said it is his humble request that people hear his speech.
Tomar said the Opposition parties criticised the government and even termed the three legislations as "kala kanun" (black law).
"For two months I kept asking farmer unions what is 'kala' in the laws so that I can try to rectify. But I could not get the answer."
Tomar, along with two other union ministers, has held 11 meetings with leaders of the farmer unions in the wake of the over two-month-long protests but the deadlock has continued.
Separately, Tomar said in a written reply that the Centre followed "due procedure" before bringing the three new agri laws, and held consultations with states and farmers for facilitating barrier-free trade in farm produce to provide choice to the farming community.
"Due procedure had been followed while formulating the Ordinances/ Bills."
Congress leader K C Venugopal and Communist Party of India leader Binoy Viswam had asked the government to share the pre-legislative consultations followed before bringing the three farm laws and also the number of individuals/organisations/unions consulted for the same.
Citing reasons for "urgency" to promulgate the three Ordinances in June 2020, Tomar said due to disruption of markets and supply chains during the COVID-19 lockdown, there was "utmost need to allow free direct marketing outside the mandis to facilitate the farmers in selling their produce near to farm gate at remunerative prices."
In the Lok Sabha, proceedings were hit for the fourth consecutive day following multiple adjournments in the wake of relentless protests by Opposition members against the farm laws.
As many as 50 speakers from 25 political parties participated in the debate in Rajya Sabha lasting over three days. While 18 members of the BJP took part in the discussion, seven Congress MPs and 25 from other Opposition parties also spoke.
In his speech, Tomar said while the central law on contract farming frees farmers from paying taxes on their sale and also empowers them to exit agreement with traders, the provisions of Punjab contract law envisages that a farmer could be sent to jail or is liable to pay penalty of up to Rs 5 lakh for violation of agreement.
Certain remarks by the minister were, however, expunged by the chair.
Parties like the Congress, the Shiv Sena, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and from the Left reiterated their demand that the farm laws be repealed.
The Opposition members also attacked the government for allegedly dubbing the protesting farmers as "anti-national" and for "defaming" their agitation.
On the snapping of Internet at farmer protest sites and disrupting of water and power, Congress MP Anand Sharma said, "We have become internet shutdown capital of the world. It is time to mend ways, especially during this Parliament session."
Putting up a strong defence of the farm laws, BJP member Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe said the government is committed to the welfare of farmers and has taken a slew of steps in the last six years in that direction.
"Everyone keeps saying that the government must leave its arrogance but where is the arrogance... We are ready for talks. We even offered to put it (the laws) in abeyance for 18 months. If we are showing so much flexibility why don't they (protesting farmers) show similar flexibility... If people in support of the laws also sit on dharna, do we want civil war," he said.
BJP member K J Alphonse accused the Opposition of sowing the seeds of dissent and hatred against the government.
Opposition Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut alleged that anyone speaking the truth is dubbed as a "traitor" or "anti-national" and that cases of sedition have been slapped against those criticising the government.
He regretted that farmers fighting for their rights have been branded as anti-nationals or Khalistanis.
NCP leader Praful Patel said when the government is talking of working for the welfare of farmers, why did it not send the farm laws to a Select Committee for wider consultations to avoid the situation that has arisen now.
BSP member Satish Chandra Misra said if the government is ready to suspend the laws for 18 months what is stopping it from withdrawing these Acts. He urged the government to shed its "ego" and accept the farmers' demand.
SAD leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the prime minister should intervene and listen to the farmers' demands.
The Delhi Police, meanwhile, asked Google and some social media giants to provide information about email id, URL and certain social media accounts related to the creators of the "toolkit", which was shared by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and other on Twitter in connection with the farmer's protest.
The move came a day after an FIR was filed by the Cyber Cell unit of the Delhi Police against the "pro-Khalistan" creators of a "toolkit" for waging a "social, cultural and economic war against the Government of India".
Also, the Supreme Court-appointed committee said it held consultations with the heads of state marketing boards, private mandi operators and food parks from 10 states including Kerala on the farm laws.
This is the fifth meeting the panel has held so far.
The three-member committee is holding consultations with stakeholders both online and in person.
A farmers' meeting attended by Congress leader Sachin Pilot demanded withdrawal of cases registered against protesters taking part in the stir over the new agri laws.
A resolution passed at the “Kisan Mahapanchayat” held in Dausa in Rajasthan expressed solidarity with the protesting farmers and also reiterated the demand for the repeal of the farm laws.