Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Saturday asserted that there was no question of sabotaging the farmers agitation against the Farm Laws, which his own government was vehemently opposed to, but reiterated that no violation of the weekend lockdown and other restrictions in the state could be allowed at any cost, given the current grim situation.
“There are lives at stake, saving them is our priority, and it is the responsibility of every Punjabi to save them,” said the Chief Minister, urging BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) and BKU (Ekta Dakaounda) leaders not to give a twist to his comments on the issue. Amid the call of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha to oppose the weekend lockdown, the Chief Minister had on Friday asked the DGP to strictly enforce all the weekend restrictions and not allow any violation at any cost. Nobody can be allowed to play with the lives of the people, he reiterated on Saturday.
Leaders of two organisations had misinterpreted his statement to raise doubts about his intentions towards the ongoing farmers’ stir against the black Farm Laws, said the Chief Minister. “How can my government go against the interests of the farmers when it was the first in the country to move the amendment laws in the Vidhan Sabha to annul the draconian Farm Laws of the Central Government?” asked the Chief Minister, asserting that as far as the central laws were concerned, his government’s stand against them had been clear and consistent.
Noting that the situation in the state was extremely grim, Capt Amarinder said that as on May 6, the state had 24-hour case load of 8874 , 154 deaths, 265 patients admitted in isolation facility, 30 patients on High Dependency Unit and 16 on Ventilator Support. “This is not the time to play politics but to put all our energies into protecting the life of every human being,” he said.
Appealing to the farmers to extend all support and cooperation to the State Government in its endeavour to combat the Covid crisis, the Chief Minister said the lives and safety of the people of Punjab were of paramount interest to his government. He reiterated that he would not allow anyone to further endanger the lives of Punjabis amid the escalating Covid crisis.
The state government, said Capt Amarinder, had stood with the farmers in their fight against the draconian black farm laws by the Centre since the outset and continues to do so, as it strongly believes them to be a direct threat to the very existence and livelihood of the farmers. But at the moment, his government was completely focused on saving the lives of the people, while ensuring that they do not suffer due to the harsh measures, he said, pointing out that to alleviate the sufferings of the people, he had even asked the DCs to allow opening of even non-essential shops and private offices on rotation basis.
FARMERS TAKE OUT PROTEST MARCHES IN PUNJAB AGAINST WEEKEND LOCKDOWN
Farmers took out protest marches at several places in Punjab on Saturday against the weekend lockdown imposed by the state government amid rising cases of COVID-19 infection and fatalities. Punjab's 32 farmer unions, protesting the Central farm laws, had announced to hold street protests against the lockdown in the state and urged shopkeepers to defy the restrictions.
The protests were taken out in Moga, Patiala, Amritsar, Ajnala, among other places in the state. "We are appealing to shopkeepers to open their shops. We are with them,” said Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan in Moga, adding, lockdown is not a solution to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Khokrikalan also accused the government of doing nothing to improve the health infrastructure.
Farmers, including women, took out marches in the markets and appealed to shopkeepers and traders through loudspeakers to open their shops. However, the shopkeepers kept their shops shut. Police personnel in adequate numbers were deployed across the state in the wake of farmers' protest.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday had directed the police chief to strictly enforce the weekend lockdown in the state and deal stringently with any violations in view of the farmer unions deciding to protest the lockdown. The state government has imposed extensive COIVD-19 curbs in addition to measures like a weekend lockdown and night curfew till May 15.
Early this week, traders and shopkeepers in Punjab had held protests against the state government's order of closure of shops dealing in non-essential items. The chief minister on Friday had authorized the deputy commissioners to take any decision on opening of non-essential shops or private officers on rotation, after taking the local MLAs and other stakeholders into confidence.