Reacting to the Central government’s allegation that the Opposition is behind the agitation against farm laws, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Sunil Kumar Jakhar on Sunday said “it is the job of the Opposition to make people aware of the draconian farm laws and we did that in Punjab villages which later became a public movement”.
“If the Prime Minister is accusing the Opposition, we take pride in saying that we made people aware. It is our job, if politicians will not raise their voice, who will do it? We started holding meetings with MLAs, zila parishad members, block samiti members soon after Ordinances were issued. I myself called three meetings of MLAs on June 11 and 17. Later, I even held meetings in many villages. The issue was understood by Punjab farmers, whether small or big, and later it became a public movement,” Jakhar said in an interview to The Indian Express.
The Congress supported the farm laws before they were tabled in Cabinet committee, Jakhar said, “It is complete misinformation. Three meetings were held in which nothing on the lines of the three Ordinances was discussed. Those meetings were not even remotely connected with farm Ordinances. On June 5, Punjab agriculture secretary got a call from secretary, Government of India, to which our secretary said that Punjab does not agree about these Ordinances. However, he was told that GoI was not seeking any suggestion rather was just informing that Ordinances were promulgated. Thus, Punjab was ignored from day one.”
Replying to the accusation that the Congress itself was in favour of the farm laws which it was opposing now, he said, “Our idea is to protect the farmers. Though our amendments to APMC were made in 2017, rules were framed in January 2020. Our basic objective was to protect the farmers from being exploited by the corporates. The Modi government’s new laws exempt them from any of the existing state laws. Hence, these Central laws make the big traders a law unto themselves. Our law not only maintains supervision but also controls through regulations even while facilitating the trade.”
Talking about the new laws passed by the Congress government in a special Vidhan Sabha session in October last year, he said, “The Congress government is awaiting assent by the Governor to these new laws. They can be termed vaccine against the Modi government’s black laws.”
The PPCC president accused the SAD of supporting the farm laws. “SAD was very much part of the meetings when Ordinances were being framed.
They used to even speak in favour of these laws till mid- September. Rather Sukhbir Badal used to say that Jakhar does not know anything about these laws and is misinforming the farmers that big companies will come for contract farming. However, their U-turn was only due to rising public anger which was in each and every village of Punjab and not that SAD was really serious about farmers’ concern despite the fact that they claim to be a farmers’ party. AAP too had only propagated the agenda of farm laws earlier.”
Justifying his party’s stand, Jakhar said, “Congress is very clear that it is standing with the farmers of the country. This was the reason that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had even come for a three-day yatra in Punjab to interact with the farmers. Hence, I repeat that we started making people aware from panchayat level and later it became a mass movement of not only in Punjab but in the whole nation. Now everyone wants assured price of crops and not just the Punjab farmers. In fact, I must say that Punjab is fighting a battle for the whole nation, battling to get rid of the autocratic behaviour of the Union Government.”
Regarding the Supreme Court’s role in this matter, he said, “Legally speaking, these laws need to be annulled in the first place as agriculture is a state subject. SC could have annulled them but it missed the bus.”
On the Congress’s role now in the farmers’ protests, he said, “We had met the President along with two crore signatures requesting repeal of the laws. Party will be going in every state to make people aware of these laws and their side effects.”
Jakhar said the farmers angry with NDA over these farm laws must give a befitting reply to the SAD and BJP in the municipal corporation polls and 2022 Assembly elections as both were part of the government when the Ordinances were framed. “SAD and BJP are equally responsible for this punishing winter of farmers and they need to be taught a lesson in elections. This is the only way to give them a reply,” he said.
Summing up, the PPCC president said, “I welcome this protest of farmers where political parties are now allowed. The farmer union leaders have a larger responsibility now to lead from the front. I even welcome them to form a political party and assure leadership so that they can send their people to Parliament to speak for them.”