India food-processing minister quits over new farm laws - Just Food
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India food-processing minister quits over new farm laws

21 Sep 2020

New laws in India drawn up to improve prices for farmers have led to the resignation of the country's minister in charge of food processing.

India food-processing minister quits over new farm laws

Harsimrat Kaur Badal, India’s Minister of Food Processing Industries, has stood down, hitting out at new laws governing how farmers sell their produce.

India’s central government argues the laws will lift restrictions on farmers and improve the prices they receive. Farmers will be able to sell produce outside marketplaces, or mandis, that have been part of India’s structure of Agriculture Produce Market Committees.

“Farmers can sell their produce wherever they see more profit,” India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said today (21 September), quoted by Hindustan Times.

In further comments carried by The Times of India, Modi added: “This change in the farming sector is the need of the present hour and our government has brought this reform for the farmers.”

However, some farming organisations have opposed the new laws, raising fears about the bargaining power of smaller farmers. There have also been concerns about India’s minimum support price guarantee for farmers.

“APMCs will not shut down. The new laws are not against mandis and I also want to assure the country that the government will continue to buy farm produce at MSPs in every [farm marketing] season,” Modi said, according to Hindustan Times.

Badal, Minister of Food Processing Industries since 2014, is the leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) party in India’s lower house. SAD is part of India’s National Democratic Alliance coalition, which is led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In India’s 2019 general election, the alliance won 353 seats and more than 45% of the national vote.

“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,” Badal tweeted, hours before the bills were passed by Lok Sabha. The laws passed India’s upper house, Rajya Sabha, yesterday.

Narendra Singh Tomar, India’s Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, has been handed Badal’s brief.