Chandigarh: Even as he slammed the Akalis and AAP for spreading lies over the farm laws and dubbed the Centre’s refusal to repeal them as ‘inhuman’, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday announced jobs for one member of each of the families of the state’s farmers who had lost their lives in the agitation against the black laws.
Questioning “why the Centre is hesitating to repeal the laws?”, the Chief Minister said they should repeal the laws, then sit with the farmers and frame new laws after taking all stakeholders in confidence. Pointing out that the Constitution of India had already been amended so many times, he asked why the Government of India was adamant about not taking back the farm laws.
Hitting out at the Central Government for pushing the laws through Parliament with brute majority, without any discussion, the Chief Minister said the entire country was paying the price for this.
“Is there a Constitution in the country? Agriculture is a state subject under Schedule 7, so why has the Center interfered with a state subject?” he asked, adding that “they went and enacted these laws without consulting anyone, because of which we have all landed in this situation.”
Barely were things coming back to normal after the lockdown, when the entire industry had shut down operations when the Farm Laws were imposed, he said, adding that the legislations had been implemented by the Centre without any thought to the impact it would have on the farmers and agriculture.
Asserting that “we are with the farmers and will stand by them,” the Chief Minister said during the 20th edition of his Facebook Live #AskCaptain session that the Punjab government and every person in Punjab stands with the farmers. “All Punjabis are concerned about our farmers sitting on Delhi borders, they are there to persuade Center to repeal laws that were implemented without taking us into confidence,” he said, adding that “Lots of old people are sitting there at the borders not for themselves but for the future of their children and grandchildren.”
The sad part, said the Chief Minister, was that “we are losing our farmers to the cold every day, with an estimated farmers 76 dying so far.” In addition to the Rs 5 lakh compensation being given to the families of the deceased farmers, his government would also give a job to a family member, he added.
Replying to a question by a Ferozepur resident, the Chief Minister asserted that the Akalis and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were spreading lies on the issue of the high-powered committee on the agricultural reforms, as exposed by an RTI response. Pointing out that Punjab was not even included initially in the committee, he said it was only after he wrote to the Centre that Punjab’s name was added, by which time the first meeting had already taken place without the state’s representation. The second meeting was attended by Manpreet Badal as financial issues were discussed, while in the third and final meeting, no politician was invited and only the Agriculture Secretary attended.
Captain Amarinder agreed with a Tarn Taran resident that the Centre was being arrogant and was not thinking about the impact of the Farm Laws on the farmers. “You should ask the Central Government if India is not a democracy anymore?” he said, in response to the resident’s question as to whether democracy no longer exists in this country. “It is against humanity,” said the Chief Minister, agreeing that when the farmers for whom the laws are made don’t want them, then why can’ they be repealed.
Stressing that representatives of almost all farm unions from across the country were sitting at the Delhi borders, the Chief Minister said the agitation was of the entire nation’s farmers and not just of Punjab’s farmers. He recalled that the farmers were getting MSP since 1966, with the Congress first introducing it, and nobody had any doubts about its continuation will now, because of these Farm Laws which were aimed at ending the MSP and Mandi system. “And if that happens, the foodgrain currently procured by Centre for use in PDS distribution will also end. Who will then give food to the poor?”, he asked.
On the NIA notices to some farmers and supporters of the farmer agitation, the Chief Minister told the News Editor of a New Zealand Punjabi weekly it was a wrong step and he would be writing soon to the Union Home Minister on the issue. Even Khalsa Aid, which was working across the globe, had not been spared, he said, adding that “Punjabiyon nu pyaar naal manao te man lenge…. tussi dang chakoge, o vi dang chuk lenge.” (“If you talk to Punjabis nicely and persuade them, they will agree to your suggestions, but if you pick up a stick they too will pick up one.”)