Maintaining that the Narendra Modi government’s new farm laws were “anti-farmers” and were brought without any discussion with the stakeholders, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh today said the unity showcased by the farmers through the Bharat Bandh called by them against the Centre’s farm laws has underscored the need for repeal of these laws, which should be followed by a detailed discussion on agricultural reforms in the country.
The Punjab CM asked why the Centre could not heed the demands of the farmers agitating across the country for scrapping of these laws, and hold fresh talks with all stakeholders on the crucial issue.
Asserting that the whole country is with the farmers in their pain and in their fight for survival, Capt Amarinder said the Centre should allow the existing system to continue instead of scrapping the Arhtiya (grain commission agent) and Mandi (grain market) system, as the farm laws were designed to do.
“Why are they doing away with it? They should let the farmers decide what they want,” he said, adding that nobody was stopping private players from purchasing farmers’ produce but it could not be allowed at the cost of the well-established system which had stood the farmers in good stead all these decades.
The CM sought to know why the Modi government was not willing to give legitimacy to the minimum support price (MSP) for farmers’ produce if their assertion of not abolishing it was sincere.
“MSP is our right,” he said, adding “if MSP is not guaranteed and another political party, apart from the Congress and the BJP, which is promising to conform with the support price, comes to power at the Centre, then who will take the responsibility of the farmers getting their minimum due?”. He pointed out that the foodgrains bought at MSP were pushed into the public distribution system (PDS) to feed the country’s poor and all that would end if the MSP system goes.
Declaring himself to be “upset” by the Centre’s move to “dump” Punjab and its farmers after making use of them when the nation needed them, the CM said that the country might have become self-sufficient for now but could not ignore the possibility of shortages again in the future.
“When they needed us they used us, and now when other states have started producing wheat and paddy too, they are dropping us,” he remarked, adding that ending the Mandi system would deprive Punjab of the much-needed funds for rural development.
The CM appealed to the Centre not to write off Punjab’s agricultural prowess. “Crises will come with population growth, and next year is being predicted as a drought year…the country needs us, as we proved even during Covid times when we sent out 50 trains a day to feed the poor,” he noted, urging the BJP-led central government not to be “short-sighted”.