Akali stalwart and five time Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday returned the Padam Vibhushan award “in protest against the betrayal of the farmers by the Centre government” and against the “shocking indifference and contempt with which the ongoing peaceful and democratic agitation of the farmers against the three farm laws was being treated”.
“I am who I am because of the people, especially the common farmer. Today when he (farmer) has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhushan honour,”said the Akali stalwart in his letter to the President Ram Nath Kovind.
In a letter written in a deeply emotional and painful strain and e-mailed to the President this morning, Badal said when the Centre government had brought the Ordinances on farm sector, assurances were given that the farmers’ apprehensions on these Ordinances would be addressed to their satisfaction while bringing the relevant Bills and subsequently the Acts. “Trusting these assurances, I even appealed to the farmers to believe the government’s word. But I was shocked when the Government simply went back on its word,” he said.
The former CM said that he has been “deeply pained also by the communal insinuations being thrown at the peacefully and democratically protesting farmers.” He said farmers of the country “have secular ethos running in their blood and they are the best guarantee for safeguarding the country’s secular, democratic values and character which face serious challenges from some other quarters,” the former Union minister said.
Badal regretted that the government remains indifferent to the sufferings of the farmers. He said “even before these Acts were passed, the poor farmers had already been in the grip of severe crisis throughout the country as costs of agricultural inputs had been rising steeply while there has been just a meager hike or no hike on the prices of agricultural produce.
But in recent years, the crisis deepened with farmers unable to meet the rising costs of inputs and were driven to draw unbearable loans just to be able to keep feeding their families, he said.
“It was cynically suggested that farmers take loans just for an ostentatious lifestyle. This cruel cynicism and malice against the farmers did not stop even when thousands of farmers in this country were and are being driven to take their own lives in a phenomenon called farmer suicides,” he said.
Badal came down heavily against the government saying that while “corporate loans worth lakhs of crores are waived off with just a single thoughtless stroke of the governmental pen, no one has ever thought of even subsiding the farm debts, forget a complete waiver. Instead, the country chose to let its farmers die.”
Badal described the “the black laws now implemented by the government” as “the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the country’s farmers.