Asserting that his heart was with the farmers on Tuesday amid the Republic Day celebrations, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said the Centre had deliberately kept Punjab out of the high-powered committee initially as they knew that the voices of protest would rise from here, and declared that “these voices will continue to rise” till the farmers’ interests are secured.
Punjab was included in the committee only after he personally wrote to the Centre on the issue, said the Chief Minister, making it clear that neither he nor his government were ever asked or consulted about the black Farm Laws.
Appealing to the Prime Minister to fulfil the demands of the agitating farmers, who are sitting at Delhi’s borders for the past two months, the Chief Minister said the Farm Laws are “completely wrong as they are against federalism, since Agriculture is a State subject under Schedule 7 of the Indian Constitution.” Unfurling the national tricolour here at Raja Bhalindra Singh sports complex, the Chief Minister recalled the contribution of Baba Saheb BR Ambedkar, who had drafted the Constitution which remains the bedrock of the nation’s governance till date.
Hoping that the Tractor March of the farmers today passes off as peacefully as their agitation so far has been, the Chief Minister said “old farmers are sitting at the borders of the national capital not for themselves but for their children and the future generations.” Declaring that his government was with the farmers, he said, “Be peaceful, and the country is with you.” He noted that 122 MPs in UK had spoken in favour of the farmers and other countries had also supported the protests as the farmers had been peaceful all along.
Captain Amarinder lamented that he never thought he would see a day when Punjab’s farmers, who had made the nation self-sufficient in food by ushering in the green revolution and ensured that India never needed to beg for food under America’s PL 480, would be forgotten in this manner. At one time, Punjab farmers were contributing 50% to the food basket, and even now contribute 40% of the total foodgrain, the Chief Minister said, adding that “we can never forget what they have done for our country.”
With production now being carried out also in Ganga, Narmada and Kaveri basins, the farmers of Punjab were being sidelined, said the Chief Minister, adding, “God forbid a day will come that Punjab would be needed by the nation again.” Not once did the Congress, which had been providing MSP since, indicated that it would ever be withdrawn or talked about winding up FCI, he said, pointing out that with the PDS system depending on government procurement, the poor would also suffer if the new Farm Laws are not repealed.
Pointing out that 20% of India’s Army comprised Punjabis, the Chief Minister slammed the BJP-led government at the Centre for not bothering about the families of Punjab’s jawans fighting on the fronts to protect the country. Punjab’s soldiers are posted at all fronts, safeguarding the borders, he said, adding that the nation needs to be prepared to meet the multiple threats posed by the collective power of China and Pakistan.
Despite Punjab’s size being reduced drastically in the Partition and then the state’s reorganisation, it had stood for the nation always, and will continue to do so, he added.
Lauding the state’s farmers for the record wheat and paddy production amid the pandemic, Captain Amarinder listed out various measures taken by his government for their welfare, notably the loan waiver and abolition of `kurki’. While 5.62 lakh farmers had already been provided debt relief of Rs 4700 crore, 2.82 lakh landless farm labourers will be given relief this year, he announced.
The Chief Minister also thanked all those, especially the healthcare and frontline workers, who helped the state fight the Covid pandemic and played a vital role in managing the lockdown seamlessly without inconvenience to the people. He made special mention of the Punjab Police, who, for the first time, arranged for distribution of food to ensure that nobody went hungry. He also complimented the expert team under Dr KK Talwar, Raj Bahadur and Dr Rajesh for their guidance and help.
Thanking all those who helped the migrant labourers, whose contribution to the state’s economy is immense, the Chief Minister pointed out that his government had arranged for 500 trains for them to go back home amid the pandemic. He also expressed his gratitude to the people of Punjab for following the rules with discipline, enabling the state to climb down from 3700 cases a day to less than 200.
Captain Amarinder appealed to one and all not to let their guard down but to keep fighting with the same spirit and continue to wear the mask while maintaining social distance. “We have to strive to make Punjab #1,” he said, pointing out that things were now back to normal within the industry, which was completely shut down during the lockdown.
The Chief Minister, on the occasion, saluted the martyrs of the freedom struggle, including those of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, and also remembered the great Gurus whose Prakash Parv he has been fortunate in celebrating as chief minister, both in his first and current tenures. He said his government was geared up to celebrate the 400th Prakash Utsav of Guru Teg Bahadur ji in a befitting manner, and pointed out that the Republic Day Tableau of the Punjab Government displayed on Rajpath today was also dedicated to the historic occasion.