Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu, addressing his first-ever press conference after his elevation to the party’s top post on Wednesday, lashed out at the Badals for being “the main architects” of the Centre’s “black” farm laws.
At the same time, Sidhu, who leave no chance to attack his party’s Chief Minister, maintained a strategic silence over Capt Amarinder Singh’s “lift your dharnas from Punjab” remarks for the protesting farmers.
Even as the farmers and the opposition parties, not only from Punjab but also from neighbouring Haryana, are targeting Capt Amarinder for his appeal to the protesting farmers to shift their dharnas to Delhi from Punjab for the sake of sake of Punjab’s economy, his bête noire Sidhu refused to comment. “No comments,” replied Sidhu to the media’s inquisitive queries.
Completely focussed on his line of attack aimed at the Badals and making conscious attempts not to attack his own party’s Government, Sidhu accused the previous SAD-BJP government in Punjab of laying the foundation of the Centre’s farm laws over which the farmers are protesting at Delhi borders for the past 10 months now.
Sidhu minced no word to say that Akali Dal would again join hands with the BJP. The Akalis will once again be “back to Modi” after elections,” he alleged.
“The three farm laws are the photocopies of Punjab’s Contract Farming Act, 2013, passed by the previous SAD-BJP government in the State...I say this with conviction that the blueprint of the Centre’s three farm laws was prepared by the Badals. I will expose them so that everybody knows who the real culprit is,” he said.
“They (Badals) implemented these laws in Punjab first. The former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was the niti nirmata (policymaker) of the farm laws,” said Sidhu.
Notably, the then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had tabled a bill on contract farming in the Punjab Assembly in 2013 and later it was enacted as the Punjab Contract Farming Act.
Presenting a copy of the Act to the media, Sidhu said that many salient features of the two Acts are similar. “In the Contract Farming Act, there is no provision that says farmers’ produce cannot be purchased below MSP. A list of 108 crops was attached saying that these crops could be procured below the MSP. The list also included wheat and paddy,” he pointed.
“In both the laws, the farmers have no right to go to the courts as the complaints have to be disposed of by the bureaucrats. In case of defaults, it would be entered on the ‘fard’ of the farmers. This law has made Punjab the first state to impose a fine of Rs 5,000 to Rs five lakh if a farmer defaults on the contract,” he said adding that the Punjab law is the soul, while the Centre’s three black laws are the body.
Sidhu, giving clause-by-clause details of the Punjab Contract Farming law and how the BJP-led Central Government photocopied the clauses with minor changes as new agri laws, said: “BJP and SAD are two sides of the same coin. The breakup of the alliance was a smokescreen. They were one and they will be one once again after the elections.”
Also comparing some of the provisions of the Punjab law with the Centre’s Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, Sidhu said that it is a “photostat copy” of the state law.
“There is no MSP guarantee in both laws, which mention dispute settlement by bureaucracy, bar on jurisdiction of the civil court, amount recovered as land revenue, period of agreement and registration authority,” he said.
Sidhu said that as per these two laws, it was the corporate who would decide farm services and they could also procure crop directly from fields that could kill the APMC mandis. Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDMs) were given protection and no farmer could file any suit under these two laws, he said adding that these laws were framed only to benefit the corporate.
He also slammed the Badals for first backing the Centre’s three farm laws and then taking a U-turn after criticism from farmers.
Also showing video clips of Badals on a projector, he questioned, “Why were they singing paeans of the laws? Why were they saying these laws are good for the farmers if they were not behind these laws?”
He pointed that the Centre’s laws are still softer as there is no provision of imprisonment while in the Punjab’s Act, there was a provision of both imprisonment and fine. The Centre’s laws only have a clause for a fine.