Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh today said that the introduction of three farm sector Bills in the Lok Sabha by the Narendra Modiled NDA government yesterday to replace the three controversial Ordinances promulgated earlier had “totally exposed” the “farce of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)’s pretense of protecting the interests of the farmers” of the state.
With the BJP-led NDA government going ahead with introducing the three Bills in the Lok Sabha on the very first day of the current Parliament session instead of accepting its ally SAD’s “so called plea to defer it”, the SAD’s “charade on the issue had been laid bare”, Capt Amarinder charged.
He said that the point that SAD chief and MP Sukhbir Singh Badal had stayed away from the Lower House on Monday, when the Bills were introduced to replace the Ordinances, showed that the “entire drama of seeking postponement of their enactment was played out by the SAD president to appease the farmer organisations”, which have been up in arms against the Ordinances.
There has clearly been a “conspiracy” to undermine farmers’ interests and that of the states, which are constitutionally mandated to be responsible for agriculture, the CM said, asking “why else would Sukhbir conveniently remain away from Parliament on the opening day itself?” Capt Amarinder said that the “SAD president knew all along” that the Bills would be brought to the House to replace the Ordinances which had the “explicit stamp of Akali approval”.
This was also done by the Akalis in the Punjab Legislative Assembly during its oneday session earlier, the CM charged, adding that even then the SAD had chosen not to attend the proceedings of the House to avoid having to vote for the anti-Ordinances resolution.
He also alleged that the “SAD, which had endorsed the anti-farmer and anti-federal Ordinances as part of the ruling coalition at the Centre, was now indulging in the drama of seeking clarifications and amendments to the Ordinances for the consumption of the farmer organisations and unions, which had seen through their gimmickry”.
Capt Amarinder asked Sukhbir: “You think the people of Punjab, and the farmers, are fools? They are not going to be taken in by your theatrics and pretensions of shedding crocodile tears.”
These “pathetic attempts” to woo the farmer vote-bank ahead of the 2022 Punjab Assembly elections would backfire on the Akalis, as they had done in 2017, he said.
The Punjab CM also demanded an unconditional apology from Union minister Raosaheb Patil Danve for “misleading” the nation on the farm Ordinances issue from the floor of the House in a “clear and complete breach of parliamentary principles and propriety”.
Rejecting as “totally incorrect” Danve’s statement in the Lok Sabha yesterday about Punjab being on board the anti-farmer Ordinances, the CM said the remarks of the Union minister of state for consumer affairs, food and public distribution were aimed at “defaming” the Congress and its government in the state.
Capt Amarinder said that at no point did the highpowered committee make any suggestion about bringing these anti-farmers Ordinances, which the “Centre introduced on the sly amid the pandemic and has now placed in Parliament for enactment through false pretensions”.
The minister should “apologise immediately and unequivocally for presenting false facts in the Lok Sabha”, said the CM, describing his statements made in the Lok Sabha as “undemocratic and unethical and a violation of the parliamentary principles”.
The CM said his government has “consistently and persistently opposed any move to dilute the rights and interests of the farmers, not only in the high-powered committee on agricultural reforms but in the state Assembly and on all public forums”.
It was his government, which had “initiated the resolution in the Assembly rejecting the Ordinances”, he said, adding that he personally had written twice to PM Modi seeking withdrawal of the “anti-farmer legislations that would spell the death-knell of the farming community in Punjab”.
The report of the high-powered committee, of which Punjab was made a member weeks after it was constituted, nowhere suggested any Ordinance or central law to be enacted by the Government of India, said Capt Amarinder, dismissing any claims to the contrary. In its response to the draft report, the Punjab government had said that 86 per cent of the state’s farmers are small holders cultivating less than 2 hectares with little bargaining power in the market. They are illiterate or less educated and cannot be left at the mercy of market forces for determination of commodity prices, the state government had said.
The Punjab government’s response further stated that “majority of the farmers are fearful of entering into contracts with large corporate houses…they feel that they may not be able to compete with them in case of any litigation”.