A delegation of Shiromani Akali Dal led by party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Monday called on President Ram Nath Kovind and urged him not to grant his assent to the farm bills passed by Parliament as these “endanger the very survival of farmers and other farm related labour and trade”.
“The farmers came to the country’s rescue when the country needed them. Today, it is the country that must come to their rescue,” the delegation told the President.
The delegation urged President Kovind to “act as the nation’s conscience keeper and the custodian of the Constitution” and “come to the rescue of farmers, farm and mandi labour and farm traders”.
“Later, speaking to newsmen outside the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Sukhbir said “SAD has taken the farmers’ cause to the highest level in the country. The Core Committee of the party would meet soon to decide the next course of action to take the struggle for justice to the next level. But we will stand by the farmers. We are a farmers’ party and 95 per cent of our members are farmers,” a release by SAD here on Monday said.
SAD president warned that “ignoring the sentiments of the farmers can have the potential to disturb social harmony and peace in the country.” He said that the party asked the President to “heed the sentiments of millions and millions of beleaguered farmers, farm and mandi labourers , arhtiyas and Dalits represented here through us and to act on the basis of these sentiments and send the concerned Bills back to the parliament for reconsideration.”
The memorandum submitted by SAD also asked the President “to advice the government to send these Bills to a Select Committee of Parliamentarians which could then take the stake holders on board before presenting these bills to the parliament again.”
It added, “An hour comes in the life of a nation when one has to be counted on one side of the dividing line between exploitation and the exploited. Such an hour is upon us now. The Shiromani Akali Dal will stand unflinchingly with the downtrodden and the exploited classes at this critical juncture.”
The memorandum further said that “the SAD has a legacy of struggle and sacrifice in the defense of Panthic values. In this legacy, fighting against injustice against the poor and the defenseless is among the highest virtues preached to us by the great Guru sahiban, saints and seers. That legacy will be preserved now and in future,” the party told the President giving a clue to its future line of action.
The memorandum also highlighted how the BJP “used its huge majority in Parliament to bypass the time-honoured democratic traditions of taking the Opposition and allies into confidence and building a national consensus on critical issues”. SAD is an ally of BJP and constituent of ruling NDA government at the Centre.
The memorandum added, “This has cast a dark shadow on our democratic traditions as it has short-circuited the accepted norms, procedures and conventions of the parliamentary democracy. It was a sad day for democracy.”
SAD protests against CCI over cotton sale
Akali Dal on Monday staged a protest at the main cotton purchase yard in Bathinda against the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and the state’s Congress government after complaints from farmers that they were being forced to sell their cotton crop at less than MSP. Meanwhile, MSP of cotton has been raised to 5,710 this year from last year’s 5,450 per quintal. The CCI will be purchasing cotton at the new MSP from October 1.
As of now, only a small quantity of cotton is coming to the market, which is being sold at below the MSP as per farmers.
Warning both the CCI as well as the Congress government, SAD leaders, including Muktsar legislator Kanwarjit Singh Barkandi, former MLA Sarup Chand Singla and former Bathinda Mayor Balwant Rai Nath said the party would launch a statewide agitation on this issue in case farmers did not get their dues.
Barkandi said, “Before October 1, previous year’s MSP should be given to farmers. But they are selling cotton to private players in the range of Rs 4000- 5400 per quintal as CCI is not coming to cotton yards.” He added that private players should be booked for purchasing cotton below MSP.
As of now, around 1000 quintals of cotton has come in Bathinda and Fazilka mandis.
SAD leaders visited CCI’s regional office in Bathinda to ask why no CCI officials were present in the purchase yard. Barkandi and Sarup Singla said “due to this wilful absence of the CCI, farmers bringing their cotton to the mandi were being forced to sell their produce at reduced prices to private ginning millers”.
“The Congress government’s refusal to come to the aid of the cotton farmer is also in line with its anti-farmer policies which advocate doing away with the APMC Act and even reducing government procurement in the state,” Barkandi added.
Meanwhile, Sarup Singla demanded an inquiry into the involvement of market committee officials in the purchase of cotton by private millers at distress prices.
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