Reiterating that his government was opposed to the Centre’s farm laws, Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday urged the Government of India to scrap the legislation and bring in new laws after fresh discussions on the issue with farmers.
The chief minister declared that “we will go to the Supreme Court if the President does not given assent to the state amendment Bills”, which unfortunately the governor is still sitting on instead of forwarding them for presidential approval, even though the Vidhan Sabha had unanimously passed the Bills, with all parties voting for them. “It’s tragic, however, that the Akalis and the AAP later started playing political games on the issue,” he said.
Addressing mediapersons on the completion of four years of his government, the chief minister declared that he could not see any middle path to break the stalemate between the farmers and the Centre. “What’s the use of making it a prestige issue? How many more farmers do you want to kill (with your adamant stand)? There are poor farmers sitting out there, with women and elderly,” he said, adding that Punjab alone has lost 112 farmers’ lives since the agitation began. “The Constitution has been amended more than 100 times in the past, so why can it not be done again to scrap these laws?” he asked.
Delhi does not understand agriculture: CM
The chief minister said he didn’t understand why the Centre was trying to break the age-old time-tested relationship between farmers and arhtiyas (commission agents). “The new laws are not an improvement on the existing system but will destroy the farming sector,” he said, asking where the poor farmers, comprising 75% of Punjab’s farmers, would go in case of need once the arhtiyas are replaced by big faceless corporates. “Delhi does not understand agriculture,” he said in response to a question on the new FCI policy of direct payment to farmers.
In any case, said the chief minister, agriculture is a state subject, and the Centre has no right to legislate on the matter.
Rebutting allegations of being party to the decision on the farm laws as a member of the Centre’s high-powered committee, he said that Punjab was not a member when the panel was initially announced and was included only later, by which time any policy decision had already been taken at the first meeting (in Punjab’s absence). The second meeting had financial agenda, and at the third, the agriculture secretary was present.