Chandigarh: Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Friday said it was very unfortunate that the BJP-led government did not take farmers on board on the three agriculture-related bills, asserting that his party had brought their apprehensions to its notice. Badal also slammed the Congress for not voting against the bills in Parliament, a reference to the walkout from the House by the opposition party before the voting took place in Lok Sabha.
The bills seek to deregulate the sale of agricultural produce to ensure better prices for the farmers. But many farm organisations and opposition parties say they are a step towards dismantling the minimum support price (MSP) regime. Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned from the Narendra Modi government on Thursday, saying it had not paid heed to the concerns over the bills.
“It was very unfortunate,” Badal told PTI over the phone.
In her four-page resignation letter, Harsimrat Kaur Badal wrote that she kept trying to persuade the Union Cabinet to take farmers on board and deal with their concerns over the farm ordinances, which preceded the bills. “All this while, I was given the impression that since an ordinance is only a temporary arrangement, my concerns and pleas would be addressed while legislating on the issue in Parliament,” she wrote.
The SAD voted against the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill in Lok Sabha.
SAD chief and Ferozepur MP Sukhbir Badal said he had tried to bring farmers” concerns to the notice of the government for two months. “I met every farmer union and farm leaders. Our effort was that whatever feelings they have should be incorporated in the bills,” he said.
“But they did not agree to it,” he said, referring to the government. The party then tried to make the government send the bills to a select committee, he added. “Then in the end, we had no choice,” Badal said, referring to Harsimrat Kaur’s resignation. “If you draft a bill for somebody and he is unhappy then what is the use of such a bill?” he asked, stressing on the need of consulting the farmers.
Asked if the Akali Dal would support the farmers call for a “Punjab Bandh” on September 25, Badal said his party is with the farmers, for the farmers and will fight for them.
On the still continuing alliance with the BJP, he said the party leadership will soon meet and take a final decision. Hitting out at the Congress, the SAD chief said its members did not vote against the bills in Parliament.
He added that the Congress in its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls had promised to repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act and allow free inter-state trade without any restrictions.
Accusing Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of playing a “double game”, Badal claimed that the Congress leader was part of a high-powered committee on agriculture and his government had “participated” in framing the ordinances.