Why were farmers, aarhtiyas’ kept in dark, Akali Dal asks Punjab CM

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Chandigarh, (Asian independent) With the Centre rejecting Punjab’s demand for continuation of payment through ‘arhtiyas’ and exemption from the direct benefit transfer (DBT) system, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Friday asked Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to tell why he had kept the farmers and the ‘arhtiyas’ in the dark.

The party also demanded that the more than 50 per cent hike in fertilizer prices announced by the Central government be rolled back immediately and asked the Chief Minister why he was not opposing this measure aimed at punishing farmers for protesting against the three agricultural laws forcefully.

Addressing a press conference here, senior party leaders Prem Singh Chandumajra, Jathedar Tota Singh and Sikander Singh Maluka said the Chief Minister had made a big show of opposing the DBT scheme and had during a recent meeting with ‘arhtiyas’ or commission agents announced that all payments for food grain procurement would be routed through them only.

“However the Punjab ministerial team led by Finance Minister Manpreet Badal abjectly surrendered before the Centre in its meeting with Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday. It is also a fact that the Congress government had committed in writing to implement the scheme from the forthcoming Rabi season,” they said.

Despite this the government resorted to a drama to befool the people in the same manner as the Congress party befooled and deceived all sections of society with false promises in the 2017 assembly elections, they added.

Asserting that implementation of the new DBT scheme would increase social strife, Chandumajra said ‘relations between farmers and ‘arhtiyas’ would be poisoned and it would cause immense problems for those who leased out land.

The SAD leaders also announced that its top leadership would fan out in the ‘mandis’ on Saturday, the first of the wheat procurement, to ensure it was initiated in earnest as well as to secure the rights of farmers.

Chandumajra said there were reports that farmers were not being allowed to download their produce in the ‘mandis’ and even jute bags had not reached the mandis.

They said the SAD would also ‘gherao’ wheat trucks being brought into the state from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and demanded the Chief Minister take action against Congress ministers and legislators indulging in this corrupt activity.

The Akali leaders also castigated the Chief Minister for not standing up to the principle of federalism and allowing the Centre to infringe on the rights of the state.

They said the centre was not disbursing Rs 800 crore due to the state on account of the Rural Development Fund (RDF) and demanding the tax be reduced from the present three per cent to one per cent.

They said the states were well within their rights to levy this tax and said it was surprising that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had not even taken up the issue forcefully with the Central government.

Meanwhile, state Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa flayed the BJP-led Central government for exorbitant hike in the price of DAP from Rs 2,400 to Rs 3,800.

In a statement he described this steep hike of Rs 1,400 per quintal as totally illogical and arbitrary decision at a crucial juncture, especially amid afresh spike of Covid-19, when the farmers were already grappling with the challenge of economic slowdown in the agriculture sector.

The procurement of wheat in the state will begin from April 10 with an estimate to procure 130 lakh metric tonnes.

State Food and Civil Supply Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said procurement agencies, including the Food Corporation of India (FCI), would procure it on the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,975 per quintal.

He said the state has increased procurement centres from 1,872 to 4,000 to check the spread of coronavirus.

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