Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said that his comments asking farmers not to protest against the Centre’s agriculture laws in the state had been misinterpreted, NDTV reported.
On Monday, Singh had said that the protests at 113 places in Punjab were considerably hampering its economic development. He had told farmers to shift their sit-in venues to Delhi or Haryana in order to mount pressure on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government.
He had also advocated for repealing the contentious agriculture laws, asking why cannot the Centre cannot withdraw them when the Constitution had been amended 127 times since it was adopted.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of the various farmer unions, criticised the Punjab chief minister’s comments.
On Tuesday, Singh said it was unfortunate that farmers had given a “political twist” to his remarks instead of understanding the pain and misery caused to the people of Punjab because of their protests.
“Continued protests by farmers in Punjab are uncalled for as their fight is against [the] BJP and not against us,” Singh said, according to his media advisor Raveen Thukral. “We in Punjab have consistently stood with them [farmers] on the issue of farm laws, so it is sad [that] we are suffering now due to the stir.”
Singh added he was not trying to create a divide between farmers from Punjab and Haryana, all of whom he said were “victims of apathy” of the central government. Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij had accused him of instigating the farmers.
“If stir continues in Punjab we will lose out on jobs, revenue, investment,” Singh said. “Already grain storage and procurement is getting badly affected.”
The chief minister reiterated that the state government had always stood with the farmers to repeal the three agricultural laws.
In October, Punjab became the first state to formally reject the controversial laws by approving three bills to counter the legislations.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s border points since November, seeking the withdrawal of the farm laws passed in September last year. Ten months later, protests against the laws continue to be staged in many parts of the country.
While the Central government claims the laws would free up India’s troubled agricultural sector by giving farmers more choice of buyers for their produce, farmer groups say the laws are a ploy to corporatise the sector and would lead to crony capitalism.