Chandigarh/Khatkar Kalan: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Monday vowed to fight the Centre’s “malicious and anti-national” agriculture acts constitutionally and legally, asserting that he will do whatever it takes to protect the farmers from the “nefarious designs” of the Government of India.
The three farm Bills — reforming agricultural markets/APMCs, contract farming and amending the Essential Commodities Act — were passed by Parliament and signed by the President into law last week.
Amarinder addressed the media in Chandigarh after staging a dharna against the new legislations in Khatkar Kalan Monday, and said he would consult lawyers to work out the legal course of action for challenging the “unconstitutional” laws in the Supreme Court.
The Congress leader added that agitation and legal recourse will have to be simultaneous, in order to fight these new laws and force the Narendra Modi government to rethink its decision.
Pakistan can take advantage of unrest
Amarinder asserted that he does not want Punjab’s youth and farmers to take to arms to fight for their right to live, and warned that these new laws would endanger the security of the border state of Punjab, as Pakistan’s ISI is always on the lookout for opportunities to foment trouble.
Punjab has lost 35,000 lives to terrorism in “senseless violence” in the past and with the unrest among the farmers spreading to other states, the entire nation would be exposed to the ISI threat, Captain Amarinder said, adding that Pakistan-backed forces will try to feed on the angst in India.
He also pointed out that 150 terrorists have been nabbed in Punjab in recent months with huge caches of arms and ammunition, and said he would not let anyone disturb the state’s peaceful atmosphere, which the new legislations have the potential to do.
Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat, who was accompanying the CM, announced a signature campaign beginning on 2 October, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, to collect two crore farmers’ signatures against the new laws. These signatures will be submitted to the President of India on 14 November, Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth anniversary, Rawat said, adding that kisan sammelans would also be organised to take the fight to the Modi government.
‘Death-knell for PDS, violation of federal structure’
Slamming the step-motherly treatment meted out to Punjab’s farmers, allegedly to make big corporates like the Adanis happy, Amarinder asked: “Will the Adanis subsidise food for poor Indians?”
The CM added that the farm laws would also be the death-knell for the public distribution system, and are a “total violation of the nation’s federal structure”. He described the enactment of the legislation as a “black day” for Punjab, and said the manner in which the laws were brought in — first through the ordinance route, and then the bills being pushed through Parliament “without discussion” — was deplorable.
Amarinder also said “lies” were being spread by the BJP and its break-away ally Shiromani Akali Dal, and that the Punjab government was never apprised of the move to bring in the ordinances. He added that the verbal assurances of the Centre on minimum support prices could not be trusted.
“When they can break constitutional guarantees, who can trust their verbal assurance?” he remarked, questioning why MSP had not been made a constitutional right of the farmers in these acts.
He also alleged that those sitting at the Centre “clearly knew nothing” about agriculture, which explained their bid to destroy the time-tested farmer-arhatiya (middleman) relations. Small farmers, who his government has been trying to help over the past three and a half years, and who constitute more than 70 per cent of the farming community, would be the worst affected, he said.
In response to a question, Amarinder made it clear that the Punjab Congress manifesto spoke about widening the scope of the APMC Act and setting up hundreds of new mandis/yards to enable easy access to farmers.
Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar added that the battle against the new laws would be long-drawn, but that Captain Amarinder would protect the interests of the farmers in the same way he had done earlier to save the state’s river waters.
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