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Harsimrat Kaur, Lone SAD Member in Modi Govt, Resigns from Cabinet in Protest Against Farm Bills

Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Kaur said she submitted her resignation as she did not want to be part of the government that got the bills passed in the House without addressing the apprehensions of farmers who are protesting in their thousands.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) lone minister in the Narendra Modi government, on Thursday resigned to protest the three agriculture bills that were later passed by voice vote in the Lok Sabha. She has submitted her resignation to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), said Harcharan Bains, principal advisor to SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal.

"I have resigned from the Union Cabinet in protest against anti-farmer ordinances and legislation. Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter and sister," Kaur said in a tweet.

"Thousands of farmers are on the streets. I did not want to be part of the government that got the bills passed in the House without addressing the apprehensions of farmers, that is why I resigned," Kaur said later.

"My decision symbolises my party’s vision, its glorious legacy and its commitment to go to any extent to safeguard the interests of the farmers," the MP wrote in a four-page resignation letter addressed to the PM.

"We stand with the farmers and will do anything for them. The next course of action will be taken by our party for which there will be a meeting shortly," said Badal.

Large-scale protests from farmers in Punjab against these measures have put the regional party, which draws its support majorly from peasants, under pressure, culminating in the resignation of its only representative in the government. 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 -- Badal announced in Lok Sabha that Kaur will quit the the government, shortly after which the Union Minister of Food Processing Industries submitted her resignation.

Badal in Parliament said the proposed laws will "destroy" the 50 years of hard work done by successive Punjab governments to build the farm sector. Vehemently opposing the bills, he recalled the state's massive contribution to making India self-sufficient in food grain production.

Badal also refuted suggestions that his party initially supported three ordinances, which these bills seek to replace, and asserted that Kaur had expressed her concerns in the Cabinet meeting and also written to Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, highlighting "flaws" in the proposed legislations. Hitting out at the Congress, which has sought to corner the SAD over these bills, he accused the party of "double speak" on the issue and noted that the abolition of the APMC Act was part of its manifesto in both the 2019 Lok Sabha election and the 2017 Assembly polls in Punjab.

The SAD on Wednesday had issued a whip to its MPs to vote against the ordinances, which have triggered protests by farmers across Punjab. It had also protested against the first of the three bills, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha.

Earlier in the day, the Congress said the farm sector legislations defeat the purpose of the Green Revolution and will be "a death knell for the future of farming", alleging that the Modi dispensation, akin to the coronavirus pandemic, was attacking the lives and livelihood of farmers.

Opposing the bills, Congress MPs staged a protest in front of Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Parliament Complex and raised slogans against the government. Some Congress MPs from Punjab also burnt copies of the farm bills brought in by the government inside the Parliament Complex.

Farmers have protested over the three ordinances that the government is likely to promulgate and pass in the monsoon session. The government claims these ordinances will help farmers get better prices for their crops, by legalising contract farming for instance.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in June said these ordinances will give farmers "the freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute and supply will lead to harnessing of economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into agriculture sector. It will help drive up investment in cold storages and modernisation of food supply chain".

But farmers who have been protesting against these ordinances for several weeks claim they will "corporatise" the agriculture sector and further cripple them financially.

(With PTI inputs)


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