By Mohammad Ghazali and Nandini Gupta
The new controversial farm bills, passed last week, can have disastrous implications on the national economy, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said calling upon all opposition parties to close ranks for a united fight to save the country’s farmers.
Mr Badal’s party, the SAD, was the BJP’s oldest ally before it walked out of the National democratic Alliance yesterday over centre’s refusal to assure procurement of crops on minimum support price, and exclusion of Punjabi as an official language in Jammu and Kashmir. The SAD is the third major NDA member to pull out of the grouping after the Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party.
“The farmers’ economic plight affects the entire economy. Anything like the new farm bills, which increases the uncertainty about the fate of farmers’ produce can have disastrous implication for the economy and social stability of the country. Therefore, what we are fighting for is to protect the country’s wider national interests,” Mr Badal said at gatherings of party workers and farmers at Ropar, Hoshiarpur and Phagwara in Punjab.
Facing opposition from the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab, Mr Badal has called upon all political parties and organisations to close ranks for a united fight to protect the interests of the farmers, farm labour and produce traders in the country.
“We are ready to join or follow any struggle in the overall interests of the farmers, farm labour, aarhatiyas (farm agents) and other farm produce traders,” he said.
Mr Badal’s call to unite has resonated with the Shiv Sena and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal.
“We support Mr Badal and SAD’s stand for the farmers. Fighting for farmers is part of Trinamool DNA. In 2006, Mamata Banerjee risked her life on a historic 26 day fast for farmers’ rights. We oppose Farm Bills 2020 as they endanger states’ role, minimum support price, public distribution system and procurement,” Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien tweeted.
Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut also put a post in SAD’s support saying, “Shiv Sena appreciates Akali Dal’s decision to break its ties with NDA in the interest of farmers.”
The SAD President also reiterated his party’s commitment to preserving peace, communal harmony and fraternity in Punjab. ” I must caution against attempts to defame our struggle by disturbing peace,” Mr Badal said.
Farmers have been protesting the bills fearing they will end the price support system and drive the entry of private players. They want these bills repealed. The opposition parties have backed the farmers’ demands seeking legislative guarantee for continued government support in procuring farm produce.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called farmers’ protests a result of “propaganda” by the opposition parties and maintained the new bills benefit farmers by giving them the option to sell their produce to anywhere at any price – something he mentioned in today’s Mann Ki Baat radio programme as well. ( NDTV )