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Punjab CM leads protest in Delhi seeking 'justice for farmers'
New Delhi, November 4, 2020
Rejecting outright the allegations of "anti-nationalism" against Punjab's farmers, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday led a protest at Delhi's Jantar Mantar to get "justice for the poor farmers".
He said he was not in Delhi to confront the Centre but to fight for the farmers rights, whose livelihood was at stake due to the new Central farm laws.
Asserting that "we are here not to disturb peace but to preserve it", Amarinder Singh added that he and other legislators from Punjab were forced to come to Delhi as the President had declined their request for a meeting on the plea that the state Amendment Bills were still pending with the Governor.
Though they had earlier planned a relay protest at Rajghat in New Delhi, they had to shift to Jantar Mantar as Delhi police clamped Section 144 at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial, Singh said.
He knew that the Governor had still not forwarded the state Farm Bills despite having no role in the matter. He just wanted to meet the President to brief him on Punjab's concerns on national security and food security, the Punjab Chief Minister added.
On the state's Bills, Amarinder Singh hoped the President would give them assent, following the precedent of former President Pranab Mukherjee, who had assented to the Bills passed by BJP-ruled states under Article 254 (2) on suggestions from late former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Addressing the "dharna" by Punjab legislators at Jantar Mantar, Amarinder Singh hoped that the Central government will look at Punjab and its problems, considering the sacrifices made by Punjabis through the decades.
He rubbished claims of Punjab's farmers resorting to anti-national activities, reiterating that their agitation against the Farm Laws was peaceful.
Punjabis are at the borders fighting for the country and have sacrificed their blood safeguarding the nation's safety and security, Amarinder Singh observed.
He reiterated his warning that any move by the Central government to tinker with religion or livelihood of the people would trigger resentment and anger.
The farmers are protesting since the new laws by the Central government will harm them and snatch away food from their children, he said, adding "we are all ready to give our blood for the nation, as we Punjabis have always done".
The Punjab Chief Minister warned that failure to resolve the issues of the farmers would cause unrest, which both China and Pakistan would try to exploit. He urged the Centre to look at the plight of the small and marginal farmers, which comprise 75 per cent of Punjab's farming community.
He said that, as Punjab's Home Minister, he was aware of the threat at the borders with Pakistan smuggling drugs and weapons via terrorists and gangsters into Punjab with the help of one to three drones everyday.
Highlighting the crisis faced by Punjab due to the Railways' decision of not sending goods trains to the state, the Chief Minister said that, contrary to the misinformation being spread, tracks were currently blocked only at two places.
The farmers are fighting the corporates, which is why they are not allowing supplies through these two railway tracks, he said, adding that all the other lines were open.
He said he spoke to Union Railway Minster Piyush Goyal and assured him that the Punjab police would help the RPF maintain security at the stations and along the tracks to allow goods trains.
Questioning the rationale behind the Centre's refusal to allow plying of trains in Punjab, Amarinder Singh said the move obstructed the movement of essential supplies not just in Punjab, facing a shortage of coal and power, storage for foodgrains and fertilisers but also to other states, including the armed forces at Ladakh and Kashmir.
The Chief Minister slammed the Centre over the "unjust" Farm Laws, which, he said, would destroy the established system of marketing of food produce through close-knit relations between farmers and commission agents ('arhityas').
With only 1.57 per cent of the country's total population, Punjab contributes 40 per cent to the national food pool as part of the tried and tested system, which the BJP-led Central government was trying to destroy for benefitting a few corporates, he said.
Earlier today, a large number of Punjab legislators, including cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, were stopped by Delhi police as they tried entering the national capital to participate in the "relay dharna" led by Amarinder Singh.
After a heated altercation at the Singhu border, Sidhu and all other legislators were allowed to enter Delhi.
Describing the Centre's Farm Laws an "attack on the country's federal structure", Sidhu told the media that these "black laws" would ruin the farming community and others associated with the agrarian economy.
"The Central government is taking away the rights of our farmers... We have empathy not sympathy with them," he said, adding,"This is democracy. We are representatives of the people. But they do not understand that we will hit back as much as we are suppressed by the Centre."