Extending their full support to Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on the issue of the anti-farmer Ordinances passed by the Centre, all the major political parties of Punjab, barring the BJP, on Wednesday resolved to appeal to the Centre to immediately withdraw the same in public interest, and not to tinker with the MSP regime.While the BJP completely opposed the resolution, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), while initially expressing their reservations on the same, eventually decided to partially endorse it, choosing to go with the other parties in resolving “that existing assured purchase under MSP regime and the State APMCs should not be tinkered with in any manner.” SAD also decided to support the decision of all parties to take a delegation to meet the Prime Minister and Union Agriculture Minister on the issue.The resolution read that “a delegation of representatives of all political parties led by the State Chief Minister would meet the Prime Minister and Union Agriculture Minister to convey their strong reservations on these anti-farmer legislations and urge them to immediately withdraw these in public interest.”It further stated that that “Agriculture” and “Markets” are 'State Subjects" under the Seventh Schedule and the present Ordinances are against the spirit of Cooperative Federalism enshrined in the Constitution. Accordingly, the Union Government is urged to immediately review and withdraw these Ordnances.” However, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said the party would like a legal opinion before terming the Ordinances as against the spirit of cooperative federalismThe resolution was passed after a marathon nearly 5-hour long Video Conference meeting convened by the Chief Minister, who made it clear that he would stand with the farmers and people of Punjab, as he had done on the issue of water sharing, when he had gone against his own party to abrogate all water sharing agreements of the state.
The Centre has no right to interfere in the matter of Agriculture, said Captain Amarinder, urging all parties to stand with his government on this issue in the interest of the state and its people, particularly the farmers. Pointing out that the Centre had come out with these Ordinances without waiting for the report of the Committee formed under Maharashtra Chief Minister to assess all aspects of the issue, the Chief Minister urged SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal “to go by your heart and not let politics rule your decision”.
Captain Amarinder’s appeal to Sukhbir came after the latter initially opposed the Resolution, arguing that there was nothing wrong in the Ordinances. Describing the Ordinances as pro-farmer and aimed at encouraging competition, Sukhbir initially rejected the suggestion that the move was a precursor to ending the MSP system, pointing out that it was not written anywhere. The Chief Minister, however, was quick to point out that written or note, the aim was clear, and the Ordinances had to be seen in the context of the developments of the past 6 yearsDubbing the Ordinances as `dangerous’, the Chief Minister pointed out that the Shanta Kumar committee report had recommended gradual withdrawal of MSP and dismantling of FCI. The Ordinances, which are also on the lines of the committee report, are steps in the same direction, he warned, adding that this would lead to an unprecedented crisis for Punjab, which is dependent on Agriculture. He cited the example of Maize, which continues to be sold at Rs 600 a quintal despite MSP being in place.Further, going by past experience, there was no guarantee that they would not end up being a precursor to the elimination of the MSP regime, said the Chief Minister. “We were guaranteed GST payments and are still waiting to receive them,” he observed, adding that “we have been watching this game for long, with promises made one day and changed the next.” Punjab has to take decisions in its own interests, Captain Amarinder stressed, questioning the rationale behind the Centre usurping Agriculture, which is a State subject with the prerogative for taking decisions on it lying with the states. He further questioned how development would take place in rural areas if money does not come to Mandi Boards.
Earlier, the issue was discussed extensively by senior leaders of various political parties, with the meeting commencing after a 2-minute, observed in memory of the 20 bravehearts who had been martyred in the Galwan Valley clash with the Chinese.PPCC president Sunil Jakhar said the Ordinances, in terms of both content and intent, were violative of the spirit of cooperative federalism. He also questioned the timing of the Ordinances, which had been brought in when the country was in the middle of the Covid battle and a face-off with China, with economy in a state of shambles. He termed the Ordinances part of the process started in 2014, when the Shanta Kumar committee recommended dismantling of MSP and FCI, and reduction of distribution of foodgrains under the PDS scheme. Seeing in the Ordinances a bid to promote corporate culture for the benefit of private business houses, Jakhar said the move would lead to exploitation of the farmers, who will be reduced to becoming labourers with the corporate houses becoming owners of agriculture without paying a penny for it. He dubbed the Ordinances a conspiracy to ruin Punjab.BJP state president Ashwani Sharma termed the Ordinances as pro-farmer, and denied any move to kill the MSP regime, claiming that the MSP was permanent.AAP Punjab unit president and MP Bhagwant Mann said not only farmers, but the Arhtiyas and small traders would also be impacted by these legislations.
Agreeing with the Congress that the legislations were totally against federalism principle, he said after Health and Education, the Centre was now trying to take over another state subject, namely Agriculture. He questioned the urgency of bringing in the Ordinances, and said the legislations should have been discussed properly in Parliament. Charging the central government with firing on Corona shoulders to benefit private players, he said the move will ruin Punjab. He pointed out that just three days after Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had announced that MSP would stay, another Union Minister, Nitin Gadkari, had called MSP the biggest burden on the country.Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Bant Singh Brar questioned the need of these Ordinances when the time-tested marketing systems and structures were working well. This will spell the end of APMCs and break Punjab’s backbone, he said.Citing the Anandpur Sahib resolution, SAD (Taksali) leader and MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said while SAD had always spoken about more powers to states, these Ordinances were designed to dilute the same. He said the concerns about MSP continuity were valid and the BJP needs to address them and also other apprehensions about the Ordinances.Extending his support to the state government on the issue, CPI (M) State Secretary Sukhwinder Singh Sekhon said that even if MSP stays, without Mandis and FCI it will no longer be of any use to the farmers. Further, he said that the Ordinances would encourage black marketing and hoarding.BSP state president Jasbir Singh Garhi dubbed the Ordinances as outright anti-farmer and favourable to corporates, which will take over everything in the coming years.