The union cabinet on Wednesday began the process of repealing three controversial agricultural laws that farmers have protested against for a year, just days after the prime minister Narendra Modi announced the same. The Cabinet has approved a bill to abolish farmers’ laws and it will be considered on a “priority basis” at the parliament’s winter session starting next week, said trade union minister of information and broadcasting Anurag Thakur.
Announcing the decision, Thakur said the government promptly completed the formalities at the very first cabinet meeting, held after the prime minister pledged to repeal three laws – the 2020 Agricultural Trade and Commerce (Assistance and Assistance) Law; Farmers Agreement (Empowerment and Protection) of the Price Guarantee and Agricultural Services Act, 2020; and the Essentials (Amendment) Act 2020.
“Today, as the cabinet meets under the able leadership of Prime Minister Modi, we have completed all the formalities,” Thakur said. “In the coming session, our first priority will be to repeal three laws on agriculture.”
He did not answer questions about whether the government would pass legislation guaranteeing a minimum price of support, another important demand from protesting farmers.
The Cabinet of Ministers also approved an extension until March 2022 of Prime Minister Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana’s (PMGKAY) scheme, according to which more than 80 million people are entitled to free 5 kg of grain every month, wheat or rice, from March 2020.
According to Thakur, Rs 53,344 crores will be spent on the scheme over the next four months, bringing the total to Rs 2.6 million. It provides food grains in excess of what beneficiaries are entitled to under the National Food Security Act 2013 and Antjodaya Anna Yojana. Originally designed for just three months, PMGKAY has since been renewed several times.
Pointing out that the government has focused on ensuring that no family goes hungry during COVID-19 Thakur said: “India is the only country in the world that has supplied 80 million people with grain for several months. To date, 600 lakh metric tons of food grain have been allocated and 541 lakh metric tons of food grain have been distributed. ”
The Food Ministry has given instructions to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to supply the food grains needed for PMGKAY, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said. FCI mobilizes additional railroad rakes to transport grain.
Pandey added that about 160 million metric tons of food grains will be needed in the next four months – 55 percent of that rice and the remaining wheat.
On Wednesday, the Cabinet of Ministers Committee on Economic Affairs made a separate decision on the privatization of electricity distribution in the union territory of Dadra and Nadar Haveli and Daman and Diu, covering 1.45 lakhs of consumers. The government announced that a Special Purpose Vehicle company would be created and its shares would go to the highest bidder and trusts would be formed for the obligations of the serving employees.
The government said it would result in “operational improvements and distribution functional efficiency and provide a model to emulate for other utilities across the country,” adding that as competition intensifies, the power industry will strengthen and unpaid contributions will decline.