Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday led a protest of Congress ministers and MLAs from the state, at Jantar Mantar here, to protest the Centre’s “step-motherly treatment” towards it including the continued suspension of Railway goods trains and the nonpayment of GST dues to the state.
Launching a mission to save farmers of Punjab, the chief minister said that he and other state MLAs had sought to meet President Ram Nath Kovind to bring attention to the challenges Punjab was facing. Farmers in Punjab have been for months now agitating against the three newly enacted farm laws.
After paying his respects to the Father of the Nation at Rajghat, the chief minister told media persons said that the President had declined to give him and other Punjab legislators time to draw his attention to their grave concerns. “He is the head of the nation and we wanted to tell him about the situation in Punjab and hoped that he would talk to the central government,” said Captain Amarinder.
Amarinder Singh also expressed serious concerns over the role of the Punjab Governor, who has still not forwarded the state amendment Bills to the President weeks after they were presented to him following their unanimous passage in the Vidhan Sabha.
The chief minister said “We did not want to talk on Bills, we know that the President hasn’t received it yet. It is with Governor, V P Singh Badnore for now. He has a habit of delaying the Bills.”
“The Governor has no role to play in this, he should have sent the Bills to the President by now, he is a mere post-box in such matters, so why has he not forwarded the Bills till now?” the Chief Minister asked, pointing out that the Governor was still sitting over another Bill- the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2019- of his government submitted a year ago.
Last month the Punjab Assembly adopted a resolution rejecting the Centre’s new farm laws and passed four bills. The three farm bills — the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — were passed by Parliament recently.
The chief minister said: “Railways services are suspended, coal is finished, I have nothing, and we are buying power from National Grid from funds we’re left with. The Constitutional guarantee of receiving quarterly Goods and Service Tax (GST) has not been fulfilled and is pending since March. Rs 10,000 crores is due. This step-motherly treatment is wrong,”
In September the Railways suspended the movement of goods trains in Punjab after farmers launched an indefinite “rail rook” to protest against the farm bills.
“This is not a ‘morcha-bandhi’. We asked for time with the President to explain the situation in Punjab which he didn’t give. So we thought we had come and share our views on the matter. I haven’t yet asked for time from Prime Minister Narendra Modi but I will in due course,” the Punjab chief minister added.
The chief minister later proceeded to Jantar Mantar to kickstart a relay dharna of Punjab Congress MPs and MLAs, joined by Lok Insaf Party legislator Simranjit Singh Bains, as well as Punjabi Ekta Party MLAs Sukhpal Khaira and Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic) MLA Parminder Singh Dhindsa. The Aam Admi Party (AAP), he said, had been pressurised not to join the relay dharna, as their government in Delhi had not passed amendment bills to protect the farmers. During the demonstration, the protestors raised slogans of ‘Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad’.