Chandigarh, Oct 19: On the eve of introduction of a state Bill in Punjab Assembly to negate ‘anti-farmer’ central farm laws, cricketer turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday slammed his own party’s government in the state for its crop procurement model and “lack” of storage and marketing ability.
Coming out of political hibernation after quite some time, he also flayed the central government by accusing it of handing over agriculture sector to the capitalists whom, he said, it wanted to rule.
Favouring continuation of the minimum support price, the Congress leader said that the (state) government should procure lentils, oilseeds, vegetables and fruits also.
On his YouTube channel to make a connect with the people, Sidhu said: “Today, Punjab does not have a government procurement model for any other crop apart from wheat and rice.”
“Neither, do we have storage capacity nor the marketing ability.”
“Today, the central foodgrain warehouses are empty. They will buy our rice this year, our wheat next year. Then what after that? Our timeline for preparation is just 1-3 years.”
Slamming the Centre for bringing the ‘anti-farmer’ farm laws, the former Minister said: “Today, they are handing over agriculture to the capitalist, when the manufacturing and service sectors are in losses. They want the crony capitalist should rule. They will come and rule us like the East India Company.”
Sidhu added: “I dream of a Punjab where every small farmer has complete freedom and autonomy.”
He pointed out that 86 per cent of Punjab’s farmers are under debt.
“If all is well with Punjab’s agriculture and the only problem is the three new laws, then why have thousands of Punjab’s farmers committed suicide over the last few decades?” the former cricketer asked.
Sidhu claimed that the farmers’ struggle against the three laws was “controlled by some outside powers” and is a disrespect to the genuine voice of the people of Punjab”.
“Those who speak of ‘One Nation, One Market’, pushing it down the states’ throats with complete disregard to their demands, are acting unconstitutionally.”
Congratulating the state for bringing a Bill in the Assembly to nullify the farm laws, he said: “This is merely the first step.”
“If we turn the whole of Punjab into an APMC mandi, whether there will be assured government procurement or not?” he questioned the Amarinder Singh government.
“Our commitment should be towards securing the MSP and guaranteed government procurement,” he added.
A notable absence from the political scene for quite some time, Sidhu was conspicuous by his presence on the opening day of the special Punjab Assembly session here on Monday.