Farmers’ protests not political, those who don’t oppose farm laws will endanger Punjab’s future, says Capt Amarinder

Urges Akalis and AAP to stop spreading lies, says his govt. was never consulted on farm laws

Farmers’ protests not political, those who don’t oppose farm laws will endanger Punjab’s future, says Capt Amarinder

Chandigarh:  Even as he extended all possible help to families of protesting farmers, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday asked the Akalis and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to stop indulging in petty politics over the farm laws as the issue was not political but concerned the future of the state and its children.

          “The issue is not political, it concerns the future of Punjab, our agriculture and the future of our children. If we don’t  oppose the black Farm Laws, we will endanger the future of our children,” said the Chief Minister, addressing the people through the 19th Facebook Live #AskCaptain edition.

          Appealing to all not to politicise the agitation of the farmers, who were battling severe cold at the Delhi borders where they have been protesting for the past 28 days, the Chief Minister exhorted AAP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to stand unequivocally in support of the farmers over the Farm Laws.

          Captain Amarinder said he had deliberately chosen not to go to the border of the national capital to express his solidarity with the farmers. Responding to questions raised on social media about his failure to visit the agitating farmers, he said it was out of respect of the feelings of the farmers, who have clearly stated that they don’t want any political parties to be involved.

          Urging the farmers to take care of themselves amid the severe cold, Captain Amarinder asked them to call 1091 helpline or 112 police helpline for any emergency help for their families back in Punjab. Expressing concern over the death of 22 farmers during the ongoing protests, he prayed to Wahe Guru that the Central may resolve the issue soon. “The ball is in their court,” he said, citing the fears of the farmers that the MSP system and the FCI procurement model would end as recommended by the Shanta Kumar report. “Who will buy foodgrains if FCI is wound up?” he asked, adding that this would eventually lead to an end to the PDS system. “Who will feed the poor then?” he asked.

          The Chief Minister took a dig at the repeated U-turns of both the opposition parties on the issue, pointing out when the Central Government first brought in the ordinances, with the clear approval of Harsimrat Kaur Badal as member of the union cabinet, he had immediately convened an all-party meet at which the SAD took a wishy-washy stand and even spoke in favour of the laws. Even Prakash Singh Badal had supported the ordinances, he pointed out, adding that the Akalis then went on to boycott the assembly session. They only changed their tune after being cornered on the issue, and came out in support of the farmers at the special session of the Vidhan Sabha, he added.

          As for AAP, they also supported the state government’s stand against the Farm Laws and their leaders even went with him and the Punjab Congress to submit the Assembly resolution and copies of the state amendment laws to the Governor, said Captain Amarinder. However, the very next day they did a flip-flop, exposing their double standards on the issue, he added.

          The Chief Minister made it clear that the decision on farm laws was not taken at any committee of which Punjab was a member. “Arvind Kejriwal, Sukhbir Badal, Bhagwant Mann…they are all lying and playing politics. Ask them why they are spreading lies,” he said, adding that these leaders were spreading false propaganda to promote their vested interests.

          The truth, said Captain Amarinder, was that Punjab was initially not part of the committee formed by the Centre to discuss agricultural reforms but was incorporated after he wrote to them. Subsequently, two meetings were held, one related to finance and attended by Manpreet Badal and the second where only officers were invited and a draft was shared which made no mention of the laws. His government responded and objected to the suggestions of the Centre in the draft and categorically maintained that MSP should not be tinkered with at any cost, he added.  He said his government had even demanded that a purchase mechanism should be put in place to buy pulses, cotton, maize and other produce at MSP rates announced by the Center.

          The Chief Minister flayed the central government for trying to destroy the established system of Arhtiyas with the new farmers laws. “Why are you trying to break the relationship between the farmers and the Arhtiyas?” he asked, adding that this is what has upset the farmers. In any case, he pointed out that even under the existing system, no one was stopping anyone from coming and buying directly from the farmers, which the Centre claims to be doing through the new laws.

          Captain Amarinder also expressed concern that the new laws would spell doom for the development of the rural areas, which are currently developed with the money that comes to the Mandi Board under the existing system.

          Lamenting the treatment being meted out to the farmers, the Chief Minister said it was the hard work of Punjab’s farmers that had transformed India from a beggar to self-sufficiency in food. With just 2% of the country’s land, Punjab was contributing 40% to the food basket, he pointed out, urging the Centre to immediately revoke the new laws in the larger interest of the entire country and its agricultural economy.

          In response to a question from a Sangrur resident, the Chief Minister said his government was giving Rs 5 lakhs to the families of each farmer who had died during the agitation and will extend any further help needed by them.