As the Shiromani Akali Dal celebrated its 100th Foundation Day on Monday, party president Sukhbir Badal called for a federal structure in the country with genuine political, economic and executive autonomy for the states.
He was speaking to the media after holding a low profile functions at Akal Takht.
“This alone is the ultimate and durable guarantee against the social, political and economic turmoil which the country has been witnessing in recent years,” said the SAD president after offering ardas at Sri Akali Takhat Sahib.
“The alarming crisis following the passage of three anti-farmer Acts would not have arisen if the government had followed a federal approach through consultation, conciliation and consensus among certain and states,” he added.
The SAD chief further said: “The farmers crisis cannot be delinked from the ill-advised unitary and dictatorial tendencies in the country. The problem could have been averted through an approach based on federal principles.”
Sukhbir said that during the present BJP government, the country has seen a “dangerous slide into increasingly autocratic and unitary system with growing centralisation of power in a few hands”.
He said his party would work in tandem with like-minded regional and national parties to make India a genuine federal country.
Referring to the movement of the farmers, Sukhbir said his party fully backs the farmers’ demand for “total revocation of the farm Acts. The government must not stand on prestige and must understand that farmers see these Acts as a threat to their survival”.
Releasing a five-point mission statement of the SAD, he described the commitment to Panthic ideals and values (Panth Prasti) as the “top priority” of his party as the sole representative (vaahid numainda jathebandi) of the Khalsa Panth and Punjabis all over the world as “we have a historic responsibility to perform in this role”.
He rededicated himself and the party to the “Panthic ideal of a Welfare State (halemi raj) in which the poor, especially the poor farmers, labour, low paid private and public, employees, small traders and shopkeepers get the same opportunities to grow and progress as the rich and the mighty”.
“We need private sector investments in welfare activities but this must not be at the expense of the poor and the toiling farmers, labour, small traders and other working classes,” he said.
Sukhbir expressed grave concern over “ominous threats to the country’s secular character posed by the growing trends toward communal and political violence”. “SAD strongly believes in Sarbat da Bhala as a sacred goal. It gives top priority to treating every citizen with respect and dignity as an equal.” This he said was necessary for fighting communalism and preserving and promoting peace and communal harmony in the country, adding that “there can no progress without peace”.
Sukhbir declared that his party would strongly oppose the “anti-farmer and anti-poor trends” in the country’s economic policies and planning. These trends have been threatening to take over the means of livelihood of farmers and other poor working classes in the country.
He said that the SAD would cooperate and coordinate with other like-minded regional and national parties to ensure that the governments in the states and Centre work towards turning Punjab and India into a welfare state based on the ‘Sarbat da Bhala’ (welfare of all), a vision handed down by the great Guru Sahiban.
“The party today rededicated itself to the task of bringing back the lost glory of Punjab and Punjabis and making our state the number one province in the country and an ideal destination for global investments,” he added.
Sukhbir accused the NDA government of violating the principle of federalism and usurping the powers of the states to institute three laws on agriculture which was a State subject and that it was working against the interests of the states by concentrating all power in its hands.
Addressing a dharna at the Golden Gate entrance point to the holy city in solidarity with agitating farmers, Sukhbir said SAD was the first to talk about the need for a true federal structure. “Then we were branded as separatists. However, today all states are in favour of a federal structure and feel that if this had been in place, the farmers would not have been agitating for their rights.”
The NDA government had not only struck out against federalism but also the freedom to protest, the SAD president said, adding that things had taken such a turn that if one was in agreement with the central government, he/she was a ‘desh Bhakt’ but if one spoke out against it, he/she was branded as a ‘desh drohi’. “Is Harsimrat Kaur Badal who resigned from the Union ministry in protest against the three agri laws a desh drohi? Can anyone term S Parkash Singh Badal who returned his Padma Vibhushan in solidarity with farmers a desh drohi?” he asked.
Stating that those objecting to the NDA government were being given epithets like ‘tukde tukde’ gang, the SAD chief said the same persons who were earlier referred to as farmers were being called extremists solely because they did not agree with the government narrative on farm laws. The SAD president said farmers were not fighting the country but were only fighting for their rights.
He also condemned the “attempts being made to turn the farmer agitation into a Sikh versus Hindu conflict”. “This has started in Delhi and now the forces behind this move want to replicate it in Punjab. The SAD is very clear that if Punjab has to prosper then peace and communal harmony must be ensured in the state. The SAD is committed to maintaining peace and communal brotherhood.”
Speaking on the occasion, former Cabinet minister Bikram Singh Majithia said that now the ruling BJP’s national leaders were claiming China and Pakistan had a hand in the farmer protest but forgetting who had introduced the anti-farmer Bills.
“I thank the UN Secretary General as well as the US and Canadian governments who have supported our fight saying people have right to demonstrate peacefully,” said Majithia.
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