Shiromani Akali Dal’s Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral slammed the Centre over the two farm bills in the Upper House on Sunday and warned the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party against taking the farmers’ protests lightly. “Don’t think that the farmers of Punjab are weak, all Punjabis are the children of our Gurus and we have learnt it from them to sacrifice and stand up against oppression,” he said as the Rajya Sabha debated the bills.
Demanding that the bills be sent to a select committee to address the issues raised by farmers, Gujral said, “We are requesting the government again and again so that all stakeholders can be heard. If in Punjab farmers are oppressed, then Akali Dal will always stand by them.”
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the lone SAD member in PM Modi’s cabinet that cleared the bill, resigned as Union minister on Thursday in a dramatic protest against the bills. Addressing a virtual press conference here, senior SAD leader and former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said, “It is unfortunate that even after we expressed our concerns to the BJP and conveyed the sentiments of the farming community to its central leadership, it did not address the issue.” “We, however, will not fail in our duty towards farmers and will continue to strive to ensure justice for them and Punjab,” he said.
The party, which initially supported the bills, on Saturday said it is “unfortunate” that even after the party conveyed its concerns to the BJP leadership on the three agricultural reform bills, the issue wasn’t addressed, and appealed to all political parties to join its “struggle” against the legislations. The SAD said it will “not sit quietly” and take this fight to its “logical conclusion”.
Meanwhile, it also castigated the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for allegedly betraying farmers by not opposing the passage of the bills in Lok Sabha. One of the oldest allies of the ruling BJP, the SAD has come out strongly against the three bills which are meant to deregulate the sale of farm produce.
On the other hand, questioning the Akalis alliance with the NDA, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday asked the SAD to list “one pro-farmer initiative” persuaded by it with the BJP-led Centre in the past six years. Hitting out at Badals for “perpetuating lies” in the past few days on agriculture bills, he said they had “openly and shamelessly supported” these since the Ordinances were brought in.
The chief minister, in a statement here, said SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had been fabricating lies on farm bills, which have been completely exposed. Did either of you even once call the ordinances anti-farmer till they were presented in the Lok Sabha? the chief minister asked Badals.
Farmers in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana have repeatedly taken to the streets against the farm bills, which they have dubbed as “anti-farmer”. They have expressed apprehension that the passage of these bills would pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price system and leave the farming community at the “mercy” of big corporates.