Patna: The members of the Opposition alliance, Mahagathbandhan that includes the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress and Left parties walked out of the Bihar Assembly on February 23 over farmers’ issues. The Opposition members staged the walkout after Speaker Vijay Sinha rejected the notice of an adjournment motion by the Opposition for a discussion on farmers’ issues.
The Opposition MLAs had raised the issue of farmers protesting against the three farm laws and requested the Speaker to admit the motion since it concerned farmers and their demands including the demand for MSP and extension of the date of procurement of paddy in the state.
While the Speaker did not allow the discussion on farmers issue, later the state government informed the Opposition that paddy procurement date will not be extended. Unhappy over the response of the Speaker and the government, the Opposition members protested in the House before walking out.
After walking out from the Assembly, leader of Opposition, Tejashwi Yadav attacked the NDA government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, saying the state government has cheated the farmers as it is not procuring paddy on MSP. “Farmers in Bihar are in distress. They are facing financial crunch to survive and issues of livelihood,” he told the media.
Opposition members have been protesting against farm laws outside the main building of the Assembly and inside since the budget session began on February 19. Tejashwi Yadav also rode a tractor from his residence to the Bihar Assembly on Monday (February 22) in support of the protesting farmers. However, he was stopped at the main gate and not allowed to enter the premises by the police. He then sent out the message that the Mahagathbandhan will continue to oppose the farm laws and stand with the protesting farmers.
The Left parties’ MLAs, including 12 members from Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), and one each from CPI (Marxist) and CPI also extended their solidarity to the farmers’ cause.
Tejashwi Yadav also said that farmers in Bihar have been rendered helpless after the government abolished the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act over 14 years ago (in 2006). He demanded that the government should extend paddy procurement date till March 31.
Notably, paddy procurement ended on February 21, which was earlier extended from January 31 in view of slow paddy procurement by government agencies.
According to official data from the Cooperative Department, state government agencies have procured nearly 35 lakh tonnes of paddy from farmers till February 21 from over 4 lakh paddy farmers.
The government has targeted to procure 45 lakh tonnes paddy from farmers this year.
Also read: Bihar: Opposition Mahagathbandhan Continues Protest against Farm Laws and Rising Prices
Most farmers are clueless about the government’s decision to reduce the procurement period. In December 2020, the government announced that it would procure paddy as usual but later issued a notice stating that paddy would be procured till January and later extended it till third week of February.
In Bihar, Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies (PACS) and Vyapar Mandals have been engaged to procure paddy directly from farmers in each panchayat. It has been done to ensure that farmers get fair and remunerative prices for their crops. The process for paddy procurement, which begins on November 15 in the state, was delayed due to the state Assembly polls. It formally began in the first week of December.
The Mahagathbandhan has organised several protests against the Farm Laws over the past month. Nearly two-thirds of Bihar's total population of 12 crore is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Most of them are small and marginal farmers, as per government data.