Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal the three contentious farm laws.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have camped at the borders of Delhi since November, braving the cold, heat and rain, firm on their demand that the central government repeal the three farm laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies.
In his meeting with the prime minister, the chief minister said the continuing agitation was not only impacting the economic activities in his state, but also had the potential to affect the social fabric, especially when political parties were taking a strong position on the matter.
Singh pointed out that more than 400 protestors have lost their lives. He also said that the agitation can lead to security threats as Pakistan-backed forces were looking to exploit the farmers’ anger.
He also said that there was a need to compensate farmers for the management of paddy straw at Rs 100 per quintal. Singh asked the government to also mitigate the fears of the shortage of Diammonium phosphate, or DAP, a fertiliser used by farmers. The chief minister said that the shortage could increase the farmers’ problems.
CM seeks legal aid for farmers
The Punjab chief minister sought an amendment to the Central Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, which provides free legal aid to various sections of the society, to include farmers in its category. He said that due to divisions of landholdings and disputes over land leases, farmers were facing litigations. This has negatively affected their financial conditions, he said.
Singh told the prime minister that the farmers were very vulnerable and were at times forced to kill themselves due to financial problems.
The chief minister said he believed the amendment would help in reducing cases of farmers’ suicides and ensure better protection of their legal and financial rights.
The farmers fear the central government’s new laws will make them vulnerable to corporate exploitation and would dismantle the minimum support price regime. The government, however, continues to claim that the three legislations are pro-farmer.
In January, nearly two months into the protest movement, the Supreme Court suspended the implementation of the farm laws. It instead set up a committee and tasked it to consult stakeholders and assess the impact of the laws.
Talks between farmers groups and the central government to resolve the protests came to a complete deadlock after farmers rejected the Centre’s offer to suspend the laws for two years. The last time both sides met was on January 22. Since then, most farmer leaders have said they were willing to speak to the government again.