Why did Punjab MLAs sit on a dharna in Delhi?
The dharna, led by CM Amarinder Singh, was a mark of symbolic protest against Centre for the crisis being faced by Punjab due to suspension of goods train traffic leading to disruption of coal, fertilisers and other essential items supplies, non-payment of RDF and farm laws. The immediate provocation was the President not giving time to a delegation of the state government for a meeting. The CM said if the President was not willing to give them a hearing they had no option but to sit on a dharna to highlight issues affecting the state.
Why did the CM want to lead a delegation to the President?
The state Assembly had passed four Bills to negate Centre’s farm laws. The state’s Bills needed assent from the President. The CM had written to the President seeking his time soon after the Vidhan Sabha passed the Bills. But the President’s office wrote back saying the Bills were still with the Governor and hence there was no point in him meeting the state delegation. The CM said that he did not want to meet the President only for the Bills but also to highlight Punjab’s issues about the “Centre giving the state a step-motherly treatment”.
What are the issues confronting Punjab?
The state has not received its GST compensation worth Rs 10,000 crore since March. After the Vidhan Sabha negated Centre’s laws, the Centre has refused to pay Rural Development Fund worth Rs 1,000 crore on procurement of paddy during the ongoing procurement season. The Centre has also suspended trains to the state affecting supplies of coal, fertilisers, vegetables, bardana, and transport of raw material of the industries.
Why has goods trains service stayed suspended even after farmers easing rail roko protests?
This is the deadlock between the state and Centre. The Centre has been saying the farmers are sitting on railway platforms and threatening the security of the trains. The farmers have announced that they would leave the premises of railway stations and sit on greenbelts outside the stations now. But the Centre wants all the lines to be cleared including the two private lines entering two private thermal plants in Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo. The farmers have not budged from there. The Centre had written to state to ensure security to the trains as they have been saying several trains were stopped even on October 22, a day after the farmers lifted the blockades. The state has said that trains were running even during the trouble torn days of militancy in the state. The CM had written to Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal in the regard. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
How can the impact be quantified?
Punjab’s thermal power plants have run out of coal and have been shut down. The state is now purchasing power from private sources and spending Rs 10-15 crore everyday.
The state government, in its assessment of effect of suspension of goods trains has stated that 60,000 bundles of bardana were stuck in different parts of the country to be delivered to Punjab.
As many as 1.5 lakh bundles of cotton to be sent to other states by Cotton Corporation of India were also stuck and the godowns were overflowing. This was creating problems for the farmers for the storage of their produce.
As per the assessment, out of 4.5 lakh MT DAP, and 10 lakh MT urea to be used before December 31, the state has received 66,000 MT urea yet. In the month of October, the state had an allocation of 4 lakh MT urea. Similarly, the state has received only 56,000 MT DAP out of an allocation of 2.5 lakh MT for the month of October.
The government has also stated that the industry, trying to get back on track after Covid-19 lockdowns, was suffering. The hosiery industry alone is set to suffer a loss of Rs 8,500 crore. In 2.37 lakh industrial units in the state, 16 lakh workers get employment. With the future of these industries getting uncertain due to stoppage of supply of raw material, it could pose serious problems and unrest.
Did all political parties participate in the dharna?
No. Only the ruling Congress MLAs, LIP MLA Simarjeet Singh Bains, Ekta Party MLA Sukhpal Khaira and SAD (Democratic) MLA Parminder Singh Dhindsa became a part. The BJP stayed away for obvious reasons. SAD and AAP did not support the dharna either. Both the parties felt that when they have rejected the state government’s Bills, how could they go in support of these Bills.
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