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Another farm bill passed in Parliament

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) bill was today approved by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha. The bill was passed in a very short span of time as a number of opposition leaders boycotted the session and the suspended leaders meanwhile staged a sit-in protest outside the Parliament.

Parliament. Source: Rajya Sabha TV

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill aims at removing regulatory barriers that private investors in the agricultural sector face in their business operations. The bill states that ‘liberalising’ the regulatory system will increase competitiveness in the agricultural sector while protecting the interests of the consumers.

The bill removes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, and vegetables like onions and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. The bill mentions that these foodstuffs will be regulated only under ‘extraordinary circumstances’ which include war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity of grave nature. Action on imposing stock limits will be based on price rise and an order for regulating stock limit will be issued only if there is a hundred percent increase in retail price of horticultural produce, or fifty percent increase in retail price of non-perishable agricultural foodstuffs.

The bill explicitly mentions that orders for regulating stock limits will not apply to a processor of a value chain participant. According to the government, the freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute, and supply will attract foreign direct investments into the agricultural sector.

Seven important bills were passed today without proper deliberation as a lot of Opposition members staged a walkout from the House demanding that the suspension of members be revoked.

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