Eight political parties on Wednesday attended a meeting called by CM Amarinder Singh to discuss Centre’s ordinances on agriculture market reforms, with a majority among them backing the state’s Congress government in conveying to the Centre “their strong reservations on these anti-farmer legislations” and to seek their immediate withdrawal.
Among the three major political parties of the state, AAP was clear on backing the state government’s stand, while the BJP opposed it. In SAD’s case, while the Amarinder Singh government claimed that it had partially endorsed the resolution passed in the all-party meet, the Akali Dal in a statement later in the evening stated that party chief Sukhbir Badal only made it clear that Centre can be asked to “dispel propaganda being spread on this issue”. The SAD also described the state government press release as “false and totally misleading”.
The government release had claimed that it was after the CM urged SAD chief Sukhbir Bada “to go by your heart and not let politics rule your decision” that he softened his stand taken in the meeting that there was nothing wrong with the Ordinances and it was not a precursor to ending of the MSP regime.
Quoting Sukhbir’s speech during the all-party meet, a SAD statement said that for the party “no ministry government and alliance was beyond the welfare of peasantry”. Sukhbir’s wife and SAD leader Harsimrat Badal is a minister in the Union government.
Row over SAD stand
However, a state government statement after the all-party meeting on the issue said that while the BJP completely opposed the resolution, the Akali Dal, after initially expressing its reservations, eventually decided to partially endorse it, choosing to go with the other parties in resolving “that existing assured purchase under MSP regime and the state APMCs should not be tinkered with in any manner”.
SAD, the government statement added, also decided to support the decision of all parties to take a delegation to meet the Prime Minister and Union Agriculture Minister on the issue.
Clarifying its position later, the SAD pointed out three issued discussed in the meeting and put out its stand. It said that on the issue of agriculture and marketing being state subjects and Centre infringing on Punjab’s federal rights, it said that “Constitutional experts should be consulted”.
On not tinkering with the MSP regime, it added that SAD chief told the meeting that while Union Agriculture Minister has assured that nothing of that sort is being done, if not satisfied by Centre’s assurance the party will raise the matter in Parliament.
On taking a delegation to meet the PM, the SAD said it has agreed to write to the PM to “clear any doubts and get an assurance that MSP and assured marketing will continue”.
The release said that SAD president “while assuring the all-party meeting that MSP on foodgrains would not be withdrawn, also made it clear that he was not defending the Ordinances”.
“As far as we are concerned, our only interest is whether it is in the interest of the farmers of the state or not. There is no provision in the Ordinance on Farmers Produce and Trade that MSP will end,” said Sukhbir, according to the SAD statement.
Requesting CM Amarinder Singh to collectively write to the Union government on behalf all political parties in Punjab to get a clear cut answer as to whether there was any truth in the propaganda about the so called end to the MSP system for purchase of foodgrains, he said: “We are ready to sign any document seeking a written answer to this query.
This is not all. In Parliament also during discussion of the Ordinance we will insist on an assurance from the Central government that MSP and assured marketing system will remain in place”.
However, the resolution, according the state government statement, read that “a delegation of representatives of all political parties led by the state Chief Minister would meet the Prime Minister and Union Agriculture Minister to convey their strong reservations on these anti-farmer legislations and urge them to immediately withdraw these in public interest.”
It further stated that that “Agriculture” and “Markets” are “State Subjects” under the Seventh Schedule and the present Ordinances are against the spirit of “Cooperative Federalism enshrined in the Constitution”. “Accordingly, the Union Government is urged to immediately review and withdraw these Ordnances,” it said.
The resolution was passed after a marathon nearly 5-hour long Video Conference meeting, where the CM pointed out that the Centre had come out with these Ordinances without waiting for the report of the committee formed under Maharashtra Chief Minister to assess all aspects of the issue.
Dubbing the Ordinances as `dangerous’, the Chief Minister pointed out that the Shanta Kumar committee report had recommended gradual withdrawal of MSP and dismantling of FCI.
The Ordinances, which are also on the lines of the committee report, are steps in the same direction, he warned, adding that this would lead to an unprecedented crisis for Punjab, which is dependent on Agriculture. He cited the example of maize, which continues to be sold at Rs 600 a quintal despite MSP being in place.
“We were guaranteed GST payments and are still waiting to receive them,” the CM observed, adding that “we have been watching this game for long, with promises made one day and changed the next.”
Punjab has to take decisions in its own interests, Amarinder stressed, questioning the rationale behind the Centre usurping agriculture, which is a state subject with the prerogative for taking decisions on it lying with the states, the statement added.
He further questioned how development would take place in rural areas if money does not come to Mandi Boards.
Earlier, the issue was discussed extensively by senior leaders of various political parties, with the meeting commencing after a 2-minute silence observed in memory of the 20 bravehearts who had been martyred in the Galwan Valley clash with the Chinese.
PPCC president Sunil Jakhar said the Ordinances, in terms of both content and intent, were violative of the spirit of cooperative federalism.
Seeing in the Ordinances a bid to promote corporate culture for the benefit of private business houses, Jakhar said the move would lead to exploitation of the farmers. He dubbed the Ordinances a conspiracy to ruin Punjab.
BJP state president Ashwani Sharma termed the Ordinances as pro-farmer, and denied any move to kill the MSP regime, claiming that the MSP was permanent.
Ordinances will ruin Punjab: AAP
AAP Punjab unit president and MP Bhagwant Mann said not only farmers, but the Arhtiyas and small traders would also be impacted by these legislations.
Agreeing with the Congress that the legislations were totally against federalism principle, he said after health and education, the Centre was now trying to take over another state subject, namely agriculture.
He questioned the urgency of bringing in the Ordinances, and said the legislations should have been discussed properly in Parliament.
Charging the central government with firing on Corona shoulders to benefit private players, he said the move will ruin Punjab.
He pointed out that just three days after Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had announced that MSP would stay, another Union Minister, Nitin Gadkari, had called MSP the biggest burden on the country.
Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Bant Singh Brar questioned the need of these Ordinances when the time-tested marketing systems and structures were working well. This will spell the end of APMCs and break Punjab’s backbone, he said.
Citing the Anandpur Sahib resolution, SAD (Taksali) leader and MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said while SAD had always spoken about more powers to states, these Ordinances were designed to dilute the same.
He said the concerns about MSP continuity were valid and the BJP needs to address them and also other apprehensions about the Ordinances.
Extending his support to the state government on the issue, CPI(M) State Secretary Sukhwinder Singh Sekhon said that even if MSP stays, without Mandis and FCI it will no longer be of any use to the farmers. Further, he said that the Ordinances would encourage black marketing and hoarding.
BSP state president Jasbir Singh Garhi dubbed the Ordinances as outright anti-farmer and favourable to corporates, which, he claimed, will take over everything in the coming years.
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