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‘Must do more’: Sidhu writes to CM Amarinder highlighting 32 demands by protesting farmers

Punjab Police had registered two FIRs recently — one at Machhiwara and the other at Moga — against protesting farmers ahead of visits of former deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh |
Updated: September 13, 2021 5:31:15 am
Sidhu's letter mentioned that a victory against the three farm laws shouldn't be the end of the fight.(Express photo by Jasbir Malhi)

Punjab Congress chief, Navjot Singh Sidhu, on Sunday shot a missive to Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, highlighting 32 demands that have been put forth by protesting farmers in the state. Sidhu’s letter to the CM comes two days after a Congress panel, led by the PPCC chief, held a meeting with Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) — an umbrella body comprising 32 farmer unions — to answer some of their questions.

In Sunday’s letter, Sidhu has written, “They [the farmers] demand the cancellation of unjust and unfair FIRs registered against the unions due to cases of violence during the agitation in the state. The Congress Party has supported the farmers in every endeavour since the beginning of the agitation and our government has facilitated the protesting farmers by providing maximum support to their protests against the three black laws and for the legalisation of MSP. Yet, some FIRs have been registered due to untoward incidents and the government could set up a mechanism to consider each case on compassionate grounds and cancel all the unfair cases.“

Punjab Police had registered two FIRs recently — one at Machhiwara and the other at Moga — against protesting farmers ahead of visits of former deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal. In both cases, police have claimed that unruly elements had indulged in violence during the protests. In the Moga FIR, some farmer union leaders, including those from Kirti Kisan Union and BKU (Krantikari), have been named. Farmers have been demanding the cancellation of these FIRs.

Secondly, the farmers fear that the demand for land records – ‘Fard’ — to demarcate details of land ownership before procurement, as ordered by the Centre, is unjust, the letter stated. “I personally believe it is unfair and against the interests of a large number of farmers who are sowing crops by taking land on lease. Due to ‘Sanjha Mushtarkha Khata’, with no clear land ownership for decades, the partition of land has not happened in many parts of our state. Many owners of land are now living abroad. This is also an attack on the resilient system of procurement by MSP through arhtiyas and to push the farmers away from APMC mandis towards private markets where no such records are being demanded. Thus, I strongly feel that the Centre is actually propagating ‘One Nation, Two Markets’ with different rules for APMC and private markets. This injustice we must fight against,” Sidhu said in the letter.

“I write to you with consideration for the work Punjab Congress has already done for agriculture and our commitment to do much more. Punjab has allocated 10.9 per cent of its budget expenditure for agriculture in 2021–22 with 30 per cent year on increase, which is much higher than the average allocation by other states — that stand around 6.3 per cent. We will spend Rs 7181 crore on power subsidy for agriculture in one year. We have waived Rs 5,810 Crore of farmer loans since 2017 and most recently Rs 520 crore of loans of farm labourers and landless farmers. Noting the efficiency of procurement done by the Congress government, party workers and leaders have stood by the farmer agitation at every stage of their protest. Yet, we must do more, standing firmer on our resolution passed in Vidhan Sabha in October 2020. We should not let the three black laws be implemented in our state at any cost,” the letter further said.

The letter, also mentioned that a victory against the three black laws shouldn’t be the end of the fight. “The victory against the three black laws will just take us back to June 2020. A deeper economic crisis of Punjab agriculture will remain as it is. We must take action to fight against the three black laws and to do more and present the vision for Punjab agriculture, to increase the income of Punjab’s farmers using every resource and power we have as a state and to stand with the farmers. We must begin procurement of dals and oilseeds through state corporations as MSP is announced upon them by CACP. Further, we need to invest in diversification by giving MSP on more crops, giving storage capacity in hands of the farmers and strengthening the farmer’s financial capabilities through cooperatives and forward linkages to trade without dependence on corporates. This vision I have been continuously presenting since September 2020,” his letter further states.

With inputs from ENS, Ludhiana

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