Indian food processing minister quits over farmer legislation

India's minister for food processing resigned over planned laws that allow farmers to sell directly to bulk buyers and make contract farming easier, noting this will hurt millions of farmers.
calendar icon 18 September 2020
clock icon 3 minute read
Tweet posted by India's minister for food processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal
Tweet posted by India's minister for food processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal

"Proud to stand with farmers as their daughter and sister," Harsimrat Kaur Badal said in a tweet after tendering her resignation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet plans to make permanent three emergency executive orders introduced in June, which it says are aimed at giving farmers' the freedom to sell directly to institutional buyers such as big trading houses, large retailers and food processors, according to Reuters.

Many farmer organisations agree the new laws will remove an impediment to selling directly to big buyers such as Wal-Mart Stores and Tesco, but oppose the legislation because they say that producers will be left with no bargaining power. The laws also remove farm goods from the list of essential commodities and provide a framework for contract farming.

Badal was the only representative in the cabinet from the Shiromani Akali Dal, an ally of Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

She termed the three bills as "anti-farmer" in her tweet.

Badal's party has a strong base in the northern state of Punjab, one of India's two bread basket states, where farmers form an influential voting bloc.

Modi's BJP enjoys an overwhelming majority in parliament, and the Shiromani Akali Dal hasn't made it clear whether it would pull out of the ruling coalition. Both houses of parliament still need to approve making the bills permanent.

India's main opposition Congress party has also criticised Modi's government for trying to change age-old rules that govern Indian agriculture.

Currently, India's antiquated Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act (APMC) requires all farmers to sell their produce at the wholesale markets in most of the country's 29 states.

Modi's administration has clarified that the wholesale markets will operate as usual as the APMC Act hasn't been abolished, and the government only aims to empower farmers to sell directly to buyers.

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