The Union Cabinet Wednesday began the process of repealing the three contentious farm laws against which farmers have been protesting for a year, days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the same. The Farm Laws Repeal Bill was cleared by the Cabinet and will be taken up on “priority” basis in the Winter Session of Parliament, beginning next week, Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur said.
Announcing the decision, Thakur said the government had completed expeditiously the formalities at the very first Cabinet meeting held after the PM promised to repeal the three laws — Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
“Today, when the Cabinet met under the able leadership of Prime Minister Modi, we completed the formalities,” Thakur said. “In the coming session, it will be our priority to repeal the three farm laws.”
He did not answer questions on if the government will bring a law to guarantee the Minimum Support Price, which has been another major demand of the protesting farmers.
The Cabinet also approved the extension till March 2022 of the Prime Minister Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) scheme — under which over 80 crore people are entitled to free 5 kg foodgrains each per month, wheat or rice, since March 2020.
In the next four months, Rs 53,344 crore will be spent on the scheme, taking the total to Rs 2.6 lakh crore, Thakur said. It provides foodgrains above what beneficiaries who fall under the ambit of the National Food Security Act, 2013, and Antyodaya Anna Yojana are entitled to. Initially meant for only three months, the PMGKAY has been extended several times since.
Pointing out that the government’s focus was to ensure that no family remained hungry during the Covid-19 pandemic, Thakur said: “India is the only country in the world which has provided foodgrains to 80 crore people for months. Till now, 600 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains have been allocated and 541 lakh metric tonnes foodgrains have been distributed.”
The Food Ministry has issued directions to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the supply of the foodgrains needed for the PMGKAY, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said. The FCI will mobilise additional railway rakes to carry the foodgrains.
Pandey added that around 160 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrains would be required in the coming four months — 55 per cent of that rice, and the remaining wheat.
In a separate decision, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs Wednesday decided to privatise electricity distribution in the Union Territory of Dadra & Nadar Haveli and Daman & Diu, covering 1.45 lakh consumers. A company (Special Purpose Vehicle) will be created, and its shares will go to the highest bidder, and trusts will be formed for the liabilities of the serving employees, the government said.
It will lead to “operational improvements and functional efficiencies in distribution and provide a model for emulation by other utilities across the country”, the government said, adding that as competition becomes more intense, the power industry would be strengthened while pending dues would fall.