April 6, 2021 9:10:04 am
As a war of letter rages between Centre and Punjab ahead of the Rabi Marketing Season (RMS), the Amarinder Singh government and the state’s ruling party, Congress, feel that letters are being shot with an aim to chastise protesting farmers and to poach on the state’s federal turf.
The first letter in question had come from Union Minister Piyush Goyal and was addressed to CM Amarinder Singh asking him to implement the Direct Benefit Transfer system. The second one from the Union Home Ministry to the state Chief Secretary and DGP spoke about farmers allegedly giving drugs to migrant workers to extract more work from them.
While state’s Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said that Centre was acting out of arrogance and trying to punish farmers, PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar said that it was an attack on cooperative federalism.
In response to Goyal’s letter, Amarinder wrote to PM stating that decades old system dependent on the relationship between arhtiyas and the farmers should not be touched till discussions are held between the stakeholders.
But what irked Punjab government the most was the tone of Goyal’s letter to the CM.
“Look at the tone of the letter by Goyal. What are they thinking? Where is the Centre and state relationship?” asked Punjab Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu.
In his letter to CM on March 27, Goyal had written, “In the interest of farmers, GOI has been requesting the state government of Punjab to streamline their procurement and payment procedure in line with GOI guidelines of direct online payment to farmers and compliance of Public Finance Management System (PFMS), since 2018. The state government has time and again sought extension on these timelines which have been exempted during KMS 2019-20, RMS 2020-21. But despite giving sufficient time to comply with the guidelines and series of meetings held, state has not implemented these provisions so far. The ministry vide letter No. 195 (2)120t6-FC A/cs (Vol.II.E.34L367) dated 04.03.202t (copy enclosed) has once again requested Government of Punjab to implement online payment directly into farmer’s account and compliance of PFMS with effect from the upcoming RMS 202L-22 i.e. 01.04.2021.”
Amarinder also wrote back to Goyal seeking Rural Development Fund (RDF) at the rate of 3 per cent of MSP and not at 1 per cent as per the revised provisional cost sheet of the Union government.
But it was not just Goyal’s letter that caused heartburn in power corridors of Punjab. Another letter by Union Ministry of Home Affairs to Punjab Chief Secretary and DGP caused a furore for seeking action against the farmers who, according to a probe by BSF, were having bonded labourers, and making them take narcotics to enhance their performance. Amarinder reacted to this letter calling it a conspiracy to defame Punjab Farmers.
State Cabinet Minister Ashu claimed that there is a clear “design” in these letters.
“Why are these letters coming in the month of March only? This is just ahead of procurement of wheat. They just want to get back at the farmers for their agitation against farm laws. After the procurement is over, everything will fall in place. Tell me how many farmers have you seen having bonded labourers and making them dependent on drugs?”
The Food Minister also claimed that said that CM and his ministers have been seeking appointment with the PM and Goyal, but in vain. “We are also elected representatives of people. Why this step motherly treatment?” he questioned.
Ashu pointed out that he had written 20 mails to Goyal seeking a meeting with him. “I can produce the record. But he is not willing to meet the minister of a state who wants to apprise him about the situation. He should understand that he is not a CEO of a corporate office but a minister in a democracy. This is not how the democracy works. With this kind of attitude the Centre-states relationship will only be affected. The procurement operations will also be affected. They should know that if there is a political hitch before a state accepts a Centre’s rule, they have to listen to us. Agriculture is a state subject and we have our own APMC Act that provides for payment through the arhtiyas,” he said.
Ashu added: “There is a problem and they do not want to face it. They are not ready for a dialogue. There is so much of arrogance. The CM of a state is seeking an appointment from the PM. But he is not available to a CM just because he is of the opposition party. It is natural that if there is no communication, there will be letters. ”
PPCC chief Sunil Kumar Jakhar also claimed that there seemed a conspiracy in these letters, adding that it is a bid of the BJP-led government to infringe upon the rights of the state. “They are double faced. The Prime Minister’s first utterance is cooperative federalism while in reality they are decimating the federal structure on whether it is the issue of electricity or agriculture. They want to bring the states down on their knees.”
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