Updated: March 5, 2021 10:39:10 am
Terming the new agri laws as “unconstitutional”, “illegal” and “a big attack on State’s powers to legislate and on federal structure”, former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu Thursday said Punjab government should come up with own set of legislations, including one which ensured minimum support price for pulses and oilseeds to give farmers an alternative to get out of the wheat and paddy cycle.
“The new farm laws are unconstitutional and illegal. It’s an attack by the Centre on the right of states to frame new laws and the federal structure,” Sidhu said.
He was addressing a press conference at Punjab Bhawan at the end of the fourth day of the ongoing Budget Session of the Vidhan. Sidhu said that government had a “democratic right” to “outrightly reject” the three “black farm laws” which “impinge and impede at the spirit of the Constitution”.
Sidhu said “web of words” was created by officers to project the laws to be based on concurrent list.
Referring to three agri amendment bills passed by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha to circumvent the implementation of central laws in October 2020, Sidhu said that it was the prerogative of Constitutional heads whether to give assent or not.
The bills are pending for approval of the governor.
Asserting that 3 crore Punjabis in the State and another two crores of them outside were opposed to the new agri laws, Sidhu said the three legislations were an attempt to “auction lands” and make Punjab a “slave” which “no Punjabi is accepting”.
Batting for Punjab’s own set of laws instead, Sidhu said said state government should take more “concrete” steps and that “right has to be snatched” and not demanded.
“Minimum support price must be given on pulses and oil seeds by the Punjab government. This will help in crop diversification, will save water and will give an alternative to the farmer to grow crops other than paddy and wheat,” he said. He said it could be considered his demand or a suggestion by him.
Sidhu also demanded that government should ensure local storage facilities for farmers, especially for perishable produce, to give them bargaining power to decide on the price. He also said that instead of officers, farmers should control and manage the co-operative societies.
The cricketer-turned-politician also demanded that farmers should be given financial assistance to engage farm labourers on the lines of MGNREGA and that their wages should be linked to inflation. He added that 35 per cent of the population in Punjab was Dalit, but owned only two per cent of the land and majority of farm labour was from Dalit community and needed to be supported by the government.
Sidhu said that many people were saying that nothing could be done now after Centre had passed the laws, but that was not the case.
“Many are saying game is over after Centre has passed the laws. The game is not over. We can be the game changers. if we rise above blame game, we can be game changers. No one has stopped us from legislating by using our democratic power. We can make laws in our domain and can change the destiny of the farmers. It is the need of the hour. We should exercise that democratic right. We should take our destiny in our hands,” said Sidhu.
He suggested that State procurement agencies Marked and Punsup can procure pulses and oilseeds by working out how much was currently being spent to import these.
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