Even as he reiterated his appeal to the farmers to ease their rail roko to allow transportation of critical essentials, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh on Thursday blamed the central government for failing to resolve the power crisis resulting from the farmers’ agitation due to its arrogant and callous attitude towards the kisan unions at Wednesday’s meeting.
The CM said while three of his Cabinet colleagues were in discussion with the farmer unions to persuade them to lift the rail blockade, which had led to serious coal shortage in the state, it was the duty of the Union government to engage with them.
Pointing out that two power units at Lehra Mohabat and a unit of GVK in Taran Taran had already shut down, he said the state was staring at a massive power shortage.
In his #AskCaptain Facebook live session, Amarinder, in response to a question from a Bathinda resident, said the state was facing critical shortage of urea and coal, and also needed to urgently move foodgrain from godowns, which was currently impeded by the rail roko andolan.
The Chief Minister said that there is a suggestion that the state should purchase power from the central grid “but where is the money?”.
He pointed out that the state government was providing free power to farmers and was facing a serious shortage of diesel too.
“We need to seriously think about these problems,” he said, appealing to the farmers to lift their blockade to allow movement of these goods.
Asserting his government’s commitment to do everything possible to protect the rights of the farmers, the CM said his government had decided to convene a special session of the Vidhan Sabha on October 19 to find the way forward.
“I will do everything in my power to save the farmers and their future,” he said, responding to a Ferozepur resident. Besides calling the Assembly session, his government was consulting topmost lawyers to find a way to fight the black farm laws, he said.
However, he said in response to a Gurdaspur citizen’s question that he could not comment on the contours of the Bill proposed to be presented in the special Assembly session as the process of consultation was still on.
Other issues discussed
Terming the Centre’s decision to withdraw from the SC Post-Matric Scholarship scheme as a totally retrograde step, Amarinder said the new scholarship scheme approved by his Cabinet would secure the future of SC children by enabling them to pursue higher studies.
The Chief Minister was responding to a question from a SC student from Hoshiarpur whose future had been jeopardised by the abrupt end to the Centre’s scholarship scheme. He said his government had also decided to raise the income criteria to bring more SC students into the ambit of the scheme which will be implemented once the Bill is passed in the Assembly.
Amarinder also termed the Cabinet decision on 33 per cent reservation for women in government jobs, at the direct recruitment stage in PCS, as the fulfilment of an election promise and a measure to ensure that women get what they deserve.
“We even have a woman Rafale fighter pilot now…so they deserve it all,” he quipped, adding that women are making massive strides and need to be empowered to progress further.
The Chief Minister further cited other key decisions of the Cabinet, including proprietary rights for tenants and slum dwellers, besides the implementation of his promise to provide 1 lakh government jobs to youth in the next 18 months or so, with the advertisements by various departments for Phase 1 recruitment set to be released by October 31.
On the Covid issue, the Chief Minister underlined the need for wearing masks and other protective measures, given that the threat continues to be serious.
Noting that more than half the people at his recent rallies in support of farmers could be seen not wearing masks, Amarinder expressed disappointment over this casual attitude. “We simply cannot afford to be lax, considering that the second wave is hitting many countries,” he stressed, calling for extreme caution, with adherence to social distancing, wearing of masks, hand washing etc.
“We have to protect ourselves, our families and Punjab, our future will depend on how we fight Covid, the expansion of industry, employment etc will all depend on that, Amarinder said.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister congratulated a young lady from Patiala, who shared that she had got her first job through the Rozgar Mela at a time when she was stressed out about not getting employment amid the Covid crisis.
In response to a question from a Batala resident, who said he wanted to visit Kartarpur, Amarinder said his government had already written to the Centre saying that the state has no objections but the decision now rested with the Centre.
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