Eight Indian MPs suspended after chaotic parliament protests over farming legislation FILE PHOTO: A farmer works in wheat field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo
Eight Indian lawmakers were suspended from parliament on Monday (21) for “unruly behaviour” after opposition to contentious new farming legislation sparked some of the most chaotic scenes in recent years.
MPs in the upper house had on Sunday torn up copies of the legislation, broke microphones, hurled copies of the parliamentary rule book and staged a sit-in protest once proceedings were adjourned after a tumultuous day.
The eight — all members of parties opposing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — were suspended from the legislature for a week and will likely miss the remainder of the monsoon session.
Parliament under the previous Congress-led government was routinely paralysed, with shouting, jeering and protests frequently forcing adjournments.
Three bills were approved on Sunday that prime minister Narendra Modi said would achieve a “complete transformation of the agriculture sector” and empower “tens of millions of farmers”.
The plight of farmers is a hot-button political issue in India, with around 70 per cent of rural households depending primarily on agriculture for their livelihood.
Debt, drought, extreme weather and poor infrastructure and coordination — large amounts of produce rots before it reaches market — have driven thousands of farmers to suicide in recent years.
The new legislation breaks the system of all farmers selling produce to government-regulated markets at fixed prices by freeing them up to supply to any buyer they choose.
The government says this will increase farmers’ earnings and encourage investment and modernisation. But critics say that it will give the private sector excessive influence.
There have been several days of protests by farmers opposed to the legislation, including in Punjab, Haryana and West Bengal.
Rahul Gandhi, the leader of main opposition Congress party, attacked the suspensions on Twitter and accused the BJP of “turning a blind eye to farmers’ concerns.”