Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh extended his government’s full support to the agitating farmers on Tuesday and assured them of all possible legal and other steps to fight the “draconian new farm laws“, including a special session of the Assembly to discuss and decide the way forward.
Singh said the Punjab government stands in full support of the farmers in these “dark and difficult times“.
Chairing a meeting with the representatives of 31 farmers’ unions here to take their views on the matter, the chief minister said he would be discussing the issue with his legal team later in the day to finalize the next steps, including challenging the farm laws in the Supreme Court.
Besides the farmer representatives, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Punjab Harish Rawat attended the meeting, along with state ministers Sukhjinder Randhawa and Bharat Bhushan Ashu, MLA Rana Gurjit Singh, state Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and the state’s Advocate General, Atul Nanda, an official statement said.
“We will take all possible steps to counter the Union government’s assault on the state’s federal and constitutional rights and fight for the interests of the farmers,” the chief minister told the farmer representatives.
If legal experts advise amendment to state laws to fight the central laws, a special session of the Assembly will be immediately convened to do so, he said.
Singh made it clear that his government has no qualms about convening an Assembly session if that is the best course in the current circumstances.
Asserting that the Centre had no right to enact these laws as it amounted to “violation” of the Constitution and an attack on the federal structure, the chief minister said his government shares the concerns of the farmers and will do “whatever it takes to scuttle the Union government’s attempt to ruin the farming community with this draconian legislation”.
The battle will be fought on all fronts, he said, adding that besides the Congress’s signature campaign announced by Rawat on Monday, all panchayats in the state would be requested to pass resolutions against the farm laws and the same would be sent to the Union government.
Declaring that his government and the Punjab Congress are with the farmers in this “difficult time“, Singh said he would take the suggestions of the “Kisan” unions to legal experts to finalize the next course of action.
“If the new laws are implemented, it will spell the end of agriculture,” he said, warning that “in the times ahead, the Government of India will follow up these legislations with the elimination of MSP and FCI, bringing an end to the time-tested farming procurement and marketing system as we know it”.
“The mandis that have existed and worked well for more than 60 years will be wiped out and with MSP also ending, wheat will be sold the same way as maize currently is — at much lower prices than dictated by the MSP,” he added.
Hitting out at Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, the chief minister trashed his demand for a special Assembly session as “cheap gimmickry” after his party’s active support to the central laws for months.
He said the SAD had been “wholeheartedly” supporting the farm ordinances throughout and backed out only when its position in Punjab became untenable amid widespread angst among farmers.
The farmers not just in Punjab, but across the country will be ruined, Singh said.
He said he wrote to the prime minister thrice before the farm bills were passed in Parliament, urging him not to go ahead with the move as it would create immense problems for the whole nation, but did not get any response.
The Centre could not be trusted to protect the farmers’ interests on its own, the chief minister said, pointing out that Punjab had not received its rightful GST compensation from the Union government for eight months.
Earlier, several farmer leaders urged Singh to challenge the central laws legally and take whatever other steps needed to protect the farmers.
Balbir Singh Rajewal of BKU, Rajewal said the new laws will ruin the farmers, “arhtiyas“, farm laborers, mandi employees, and render lakhs of people jobless, leading to a devastating impact on the state’s economy.
Jagjit Singh Dallewal of BKU, Sidhupur urged the chief minister to convene a special session of the Assembly to pass a law to counter the central legislations.
Farmers in Punjab have been protesting against the new laws meant to deregulate the sale of their crops, with their unions saying that these legislations will lead to the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system.
The Congress, along with other opposition parties and farmers’ organizations, held demonstrations against the new farm laws across the country on Monday.