The first ever two-day ‘Virtual Kisan Mela’ (farmer’s fair) organised by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) kicked off Friday. Inaugurated via video conferencing by Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh from Chandigarh, the mela took farmers to stalls and exhibitions put up by varsity experts via its website http://www.pau.edu. The inaugural ceremony saw the CM, agriculture experts from PAU campus and districts connect virtually in real time.
Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon, vice-chancellor, PAU, said the theme of the mela is “Veera saad na parali, mitti-paani vi sambhal, apne Punjab da tu rakh lai khiyaal (Dear brother, don’t burn paddy straw, conserve soil and water, take care of your Punjab).” Urging farmers to shun paddy straw burning and adopt straw management practices, he said, “Sanu apna ghar aap hi sambhalana paou (Setting our house in order is our responsibility, rather than of anybody else).”
The varsity spokesperson said that the virtual mela received an “overwhelming response with more than one lakh farmers (men and women) of Punjab and adjoining states participating through social media (Facebook, YouTube etc)”.
The CM lauded the role of PAU in making India “self-sufficient in food grains”, and said that while the ‘Kisan Mela’ was being held virtually for the first time in its history on account of the prevailing pandemic, the research university’s support to the farmers amid the pandemic was appreciable.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony online, the CM slammed the farm legislations and said that it was “a part of the central government’s `Destroy Farmers, Destroy Punjab (Kisan maaru, Punjab maaru)’ conspiracy, of which the Akalis continue to shamelessly be a part at the cost of their own state and its people”.
“I don’t know what enmity the BJP and Akalis have with Punjab and why they are out to destroy us,” said Amarinder. The launch was held with virtual connectivity across 100 locations with farmerss, farmer representatives and other stakeholders, including ministers, MLAs and PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar attending it.
Warning again that the legislations will lead to growing angst among the people in the border state, thus giving Pakistan the opportunity to stoke more fires, Capt Amarinder said the “anti-farmer” move will spoil the ‘abo hawa’ (environment) of Punjab. Delhi has to rethink on this issue, he stressed, adding that the legislations would undo the sacrifices made by Punjab and its farmers over 65 years to make India self-sufficient in food.
Accusing the Akalis of playing “political games”, Amarinder asked the Badals why SAD had failed to stand with the Punjab government on these Bills and even on the critical water issue. “Did you not think even once what will happen to Punjab without agriculture and without water?” he asked the Akalis, adding that with the SYL issue hanging over the state, the situation was perilous and the SAD had only contributed to the crisis by supporting the farm ordinances.
Amarinder said that the “new laws will eventually pave the way for elimination of the MSP regime and end of the FCI”, leaving the farmers “at the mercy of big corporates”.
“Minimum Support Price (MSP) is the constitutional guarantee given by Parliament, which, in fact, the incumbent government at the Centre was trying to destroy with their brute majority. Even the MSP already announced items like maize are not being given to the farmers,” he said.
Categorically rejecting BJP and SAD claims that Punjab was on board with the farm ordinances, he said that the issue of any such ordinances or new laws on agriculture was never discussed at any of the meetings in which his government was represented at the high-powered committee set up by the Centre on agricultural reforms.
“Politicians should not lie on such grave issues with serious implications for our future generations,” said the CM, referring to the claims of Union Minister Raosaheb Patil Danve and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Taking a dig at Harsimrat Badal’s remarks of standing with her “farmer brethren” by resigning from the Union Cabinet, Amarinder asked why she forgot that the farmers were her brothers when the Centre brought in the ordinances. Had SAD stood with his government from the outset and put pressure on their ally, the BJP, the current situation may not have arisen, he added.
“Farmers of Punjab, with their toil and sweat, and the men of genius at PAU did their best to make the country food-secure. Their outstanding contributions during the last 55 years (since Green Revolution) remain unsurpassed. But the small state which feeds the nation has not been treated well. The ongoing river disputes and the two farm bills passed in the Lok Sabha are going to hit the states of Punjab and Haryana the maximum,” said CM.
Jakhar, who attended the event from Ludhiana’s Bachat Bhawan, said, “Punjabi farmers and research institutes like PAU removed the ‘kalank’ of being dependent on foreign nations for food grains and transformed the country from food-deficit to food-surplus. For wheat production of 1 crore 28 lakh tonnes during Covid times, I salute the farmers.” He added, “With black clouds hovering over Punjab and a disruptive mentality forcing farmers to protest, we need to work on financial security of farmers of Punjab. If there is no wheat, no rice, no pulses, what will people eat? Let us not take anything for granted.”
PAU V-C Dr Dhillon said, “Even during hard times of coronavirus, farmers have reposed full faith in PAU. Seeing the excellent response to the PAU Facebook programme (40,000 to 50,000 farmers connected), the university decided to hold Virtual Kisan Mela.” He also advised farmers to connect with PAU on WhatsApp groups (the latest being for rural development involving sarpanches) and Facebook programmes every Wednesday.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines