Farm laws: Punjab enters critical phase as negotiation fails, special assembly session called

File Photo: Protest by farmers

CHANDIGARH, Punjab—The state of Punjab today entered a critical phase going to be crucial for its future, as the negotiation held between a seven-member delegation of farmers from Punjab and Agriculture Secretary, Government of India, Sanjay Agarwal over anti-farmers laws at New Delhi failed, following which Punjab Cabinet resolved to convene special session of Punjab Legislative Assembly on October 19 against these laws.

The delegation walked out of talks with Agarwal citing that no competent authorities like the Agriculture Minister or empowered Group of Ministers (GoMs) turned up in the meeting to negotiate with it. Irked over this attitude of the Indian Government, members of the delegation lodged their strong protest against farm laws in front of Krishi Bhawan, which houses the Agriculture Ministry.  

Raising slogans against the BJP government, they tore up copies of the controversial farm market reform laws that has brought unrest in Punjab and made its farmers launch unprecedented agitation against the government. The delegation said protests and agitation of laying siege to railway tracks would continue and the next course of action will be announced on October 15 at Chandigarh.

Meanwhile, the Punjab cabinet decided to convene a special session of the assembly to bring in legislation to counter the laws terming them “dangerous” and “anti-farmer”. A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the Punjab Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today through video conferencing. 

The Chief Minister had earlier announced that his government will fight the “anti-federal” and “vicious” farm laws tooth and nail through legislative, legal and other routes. He had said some days ago that he would call a special session of the Assembly to bring in necessary amendments to the state laws to negate the dangerous impact of the central legislations, which are designed to ruin the farmers as well as the state’s agriculture and economy.

With the Cabinet decision, the Punjab Governor has been authorized to convene the 13th (Special) Session of 15th Punjab Vidhan Sabha, as per clause (1) of Article 174 of the Constitution of India.

It may be recalled that the 12th session of the 15th Punjab Vidhan Sabha concluded on August 28, 2020 in which a resolution was passed by majority to reject the contentious farm ordinances viz. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 besides the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020, promulgated by the Union Government.

The farmer bodies were demanding a special session from day one ever since Parliament of India passed these bills. However, the state government seemed reluctant. Today, it announced to meet this demand finally in view of the indifferent attitude of the Union government of India.

Both these developments are being crucial for the future of Punjab. Many Punjabi thinkers are saying, “Now, the battle has entered the phase wherein it will be Punjab versus Delhi”.

A young Punjabi journalist Gurshamshir Singh writes on his Facebook handle, “…Interestingly state govt’s this move came after the failure of the present negotiation process with the center and after the attack on the convoy of BJP state president Mr. Ashwani Sharma. All has made the atmosphere of BJP Vs. All are in the state on these farm bills in a much more stringent manner. From here what will unfold in the coming days in Punjab whether politically or otherwise can be very decisive and path-breaking”.

On the other hand, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) has announced to stand with the decision of the farmers’ leaders.

In such a situation, it is being apprehended that the BJP government in centre may impose president rule to crush the movement of farmers who are getting support from other members of the society.

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