Ahead of crucial legislation to be brought by the Congress government in Punjab Vidhan Sabha negating the Centre’s farm laws, former Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who attended the first day of the session after skipping many sessions, came up with a parallel model to tide over the crisis likely to arise after implementation of farm laws.
Hours after his appearance in the special session of Vidhan Sabha, Sidhu, in his 31-minute speech on his YouTube channel, Jittega Punjab, asked his party’s government to take responsibility, stop looking at Centre for MSP and have its own resources. He even went on to say that if the state thinks it does not have resources then it should crack down on mafias, including the sand, transport, liquor and cable. The state would be flush with funds, he said.
The Congress government in Punjab has been demanding that the Centre should pay the MSP as the state’s farmers grow foodgrains for the Centre’s granaries. The government is preparing to pass legislation to negate the Centre’s farm laws.
Sidhu, who skipped all sessions ever since he attended the Budget session in February 2019, made his appearance in the Assembly as the special session concerns the farmers’ issues. In the past Sidhu had faced criticism from Opposition parties for staying away from Assembly and not taking up people’s issues.
He said the Centre’s MSP was not the only solution to Punjab farmers’ problems. Taking a different line than the state government, he said, “If MSP was the solution, then why thousands of farmers committeed suicide in the past?”
Advocating diversification and MSP for all the crops consumed in the state, he said, “Punjab has no procurement model to lift crops other than wheat and paddy. Nether has Punjab got the storage space. Today, the Central foodgrain warehouses are empty, they will buy our rice this year, our wheat next year. What after that? Our timeline for preparation is just one-three years.”
“A state that does not eat rice, utilises 14 billion cubic metres of groundwater more than the rechargeable limit. As such, 80 per cent of Punjab’s groundwater is being over-exploited. One cubic metre has 1,000 litres of water. In five-10 years the entire land will go barren. Today 86 per cent of Punjab’s farmers are under debt. Punjab’s struggle is not just to save the mandis and MSP. If it was then why did thousands of Punjab farmers commit suicide?” he added.
He demanded that the state should give MSP on oil seeds, vegetables, pulses and fruits. If the government does not have resources to help farmers then they should crack down on liquor, sand, transport and cable mafia, he reiterated.
Giving credit to farmers and Sonia Gandhi for the special session of Vidhan Sabha, he called it “like a shining star amid the dark clouds of black farm laws. It will be a slap on the Centre’s black laws whose echo would be heard across the country. This is the victory of farmers’ pious struggle, this is the victory of farmer-oriented vision of Congress president. I want to congratulate the state on the first step. But this is just the first step. If we do not take more steps, then it would not mean anything.”
Hitting at the SAD alike, he said, “Akali Dal wants that the entire state should be declared the principal mandi yard but would that be able to ensure MSP to farmers? We can use Article 254 (2) but we cannot force the government to procure. Till today, Punjab’s rice and wheat was lifted by Centre’s agency FCI. That is why I am saying we should go towards the real solution. When we know that in a year or more, danger is lurking on us that the Centre may not procure our grains. When we know Adani and Ambani will bring contracts, then we should be ready. Our commitment should be towards MSP and towards assured procurement and not just to save the dwindling agriculture, but to put it on a golden path so that our youths going abroad should come back and take to agriculture.”
Becoming a votary of federalism, he said, they should fight against the Centre for going against the spirit of Constitution that provided autonomy to the states.
Without naming Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, he went on to say that governments should give a solution. He said the way farmers are struggling, they are strengthening our democracy,
“It is time for the government to shoulder its responsibilities. This is the struggle of the farmers and to say farmers’ struggle is supported by some outside powers and to say that this could create turbulence in the state is a disrespect and insult to the farmers and their struggle.” Amarinder had been cautioning the Centre that withdrawal of MSP could provide several anti-Punjab forces an opportunity to spoil the environment of the state.
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