Chandigarh, September 15
Categorically rejecting the Centre’s claim that Punjab was taken on board before the promulgation of the anti-farmer Ordinances presented in Parliament today, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday urged the Prime Minister not to go ahead with their legislation and also announced that he will lead an 11-member delegation of his party on Wednesday to submit a memorandum to the Governor against the dangerous Ordinances.
Besides the Chief Minister, the delegation will include Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar along with some ministers and MLAs of the party, an official spokesperson said. The decision to meet the Governor came after the BJP-led central government presented the three controversial Ordinances in Parliament for legislation despite strong protests by farmers in various states, including Punjab. The Chief Minister also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him not to pursue the Ordinances and also to make MSP a statutory right of the farmers. He urged the Prime Minister not to disappoint the people and farmers of Punjab and favourably consider their request not to go ahead with the Ordinances, which are not in the interest of the farmers.
Meanwhile, asserting that his government had been consistently opposing the so-called reforms brought in by the Ordinances, the Chief Minister said, in a statement, that at no point did Punjab endorse any such move, contrary to what was being projected by the central government. In fact, the Ordinances were not discussed even once at the sole meeting of the high-powered committee held after Punjab was made a member, he added.
Reacting to the statement made in Parliament today by Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Raosaheb Patil Danve, that the high-powered committee on agriculture had decided on the Ordinances after due consideration by all member states, Captain Amarinder termed it as irresponsible since Punjab never supported any such move, nor was it consulted before the promulgation of the Ordinances.
Pointing out that Punjab was initially excluded from the high-powered committee set up by the central government in July 2019, the Chief Minister said it was only after the state government protested that it was included, in August 2019. By that time, the committee had already held its first meeting.
At the second meeting, on August 16, 2019, Finance Minister Manpreet Badal had represented Punjab, and only certain fiscal issues related to Agriculture were discussed. The Ordinances or their provisions did not come up at all for discussion at that meeting, according to Manpreet.
Subsequently, a meeting of the Agriculture Secretaries of the member states was held on September 3, 2019, at which Punjab had taken a strong stand against any dilution of APMC Act. The draft report of the committee was circulated for comments and Punjab had again made its stand clear, strongly opposing any move to dilute the farmer friendly laws.
However, said the Chief Minister, the central government did not address Punjab’s comments and, in fact, there was no meeting or discussion at all thereafter. Instead, in the midst of the pandemic, the Centre chose to promulgate the Ordinances in June 2020, he added.
The clandestine manner in which the Ordinances were introduced clearly showed that the central government had no intention of protecting the interests of the farmers but was bent on implementing the report of the Shanta Kumar committee, which had recommended the gradual withdrawal of MSP and dismantling of FCI, said the Chief Minister.
The Ordinances are not acceptable to Punjab, said Captain Amarinder, adding that these are also anti-federal as Agriculture is a state subject.
Drawing the Prime Minister’s attention to his June 15 demi-official letter on the issue, Captain Amarinder pointed out in his letter today that “the farmers of Punjab as well as most political parties have urged the Union Government to withdraw these Ordinances as they will cause irreparable damage to farming in the State.” He further pointed out that the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, in its Session held on August 28, 2020, had passed a resolution to withdraw these Ordinances and to ensure the continuity of the Minimum Support Price regime by making it a statutory right of the farmers.
Citing the yeoman service rendered by Punjab’s farmers to provide food security to the nation at great cost, the Chief Minister said these farmers have high expectations from the Union Government under Modi’s leadership. “I am sure you will appreciate our concerns and review these ordinances keeping in view the welfare of millions of small and marginal farmers of the country in general and Punjab in particular,” he said.