Ridiculing Sukhbir Badal’s remarks welcoming the Union Budget 2020-21 as pro-farmer and pro-poor, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday termed it a case of brazen sycophancy with nothing to substantiate the tall claims of the Akali chief.
The Chief Minister wondered what Sukhbir had found to be positive for the farmers in the budget, which even agriculture experts and farmer bodies had rejected as totally bereft of any initiative to save the agrarian sector. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was blinded by power and could not see the problems faced by the farmers, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president was apparently so blinded by his sycophant love for the ruling party that he could see nothing wrong in their actions, said Captain Amarinder.
Despite having three ministers in the Union Cabinet from the state, the BJP-Akali combine have failed to secure a debt relief scheme for the farmers, who continue to reel under massive debt burdens, not just in Punjab but across the country, the Chief Minister remarked.
Questioning Sukhbir’s reaction hailing the Rs 15 lakh crore budgetary allocation for the agriculture sector, Captain Amarinder asked how the Akali leader thought the mere 10% increase over last year for agriculture and allied sectors to be sufficient to tackle the grave crisis faced by the debt-ridden farmers. With this measly allocation, which comes nowhere near meeting the needs of the farmers, how does Sukhbir hope to see the farmers’ income getting doubled in the next two years, he asked. And without farmer uplift, there was no possibility of rural consumption going up, which would naturally scuttle economic growth even further, said the Chief Minister.
Sukhbir’s refusal to acknowledge and admit that there is a serious crisis prevailing in the agriculture sector is symptomatic of the Akalis’ totally non-alienation from the grassroots, which, along with their greed, was the root cause of their political demise in Punjab, the Chief Minister said. “How else can one explain Sukhbir’s complete failure to accept that his own state’s farmers are crying for help, which only the central government can provide?” he asked.
Captain Amarinder said that while his government was doing its best in Punjab, a holistic national policy, encompassing debt waiver, MSP for all crops and diversification etc was the only long-term solution to the problem. Nothing has, unfortunately, been proposed in the budget to encourage crop diversification, despite the fact that buffer stocks of food grains are already putting the states and farmers under extreme stress, he pointed out.
Further, said the Chief Minister, there was nothing in the budget to ensure the procurement of alternative MSP crops, which was critical to promoting diversification and breaking the vicious wheat-paddy cycle that alone could alleviate the farmers’ woes and boost their income.
Even the landless farmers had been completely ignored in the budget, that offers nothing to rectify the hugely flawed crop insurance scheme, which Punjab did not find workable or beneficial, pointed out the Chief Minister. What is more, under the garb of changes in the incentive scheme for chemical fertiliser, the Government of India seemed to be getting ready to introduce DBT for urea, which Punjab had already opposed as it will put the farmers under the burden of unnecessary paper work for the use of 25 lac tonnes of urea annually. It will also add the financial stress of meeting and servicing requirements of more cash credit for fertilizer to pay producing companies upfront, he added.
As for the changes in APMC and Contracts Act, Punjab had already implemented the same, with all farmers in the state having Kisan Credit Cards, observed the Chief Minister, noting that the SAD chief seemed to be completely clueless about any of these developments in his own state. So busy was he (Sukhbir) prostrating himself before his political masters (in the BJP) that he was simply not concerned about what was happening under his very nose, quipped Captain Amarinder.
As of now, one does not know whether the much-touted budget schemes of Kisan Rail and Krishi Udaan will even connect Punjab, said the Chief Minister, hoping the Akali ministers in the Union Cabinet will at least work to ensure this is done, and Punjab is not again meted out step-motherly treatment by the Centre.
Pointing to the exclusion of the water-stressed areas identified by the central government for its water conservation schemes, Captain Amarinder said it was time for Sukhbir and his colleagues to open their eyes to these problems, and to stop sacrificing Punjab and its people to their own political interests.
As for what the budget offers for the poor, the least said the better, said the Chief Minister, adding that the Centre had failed to come out with any meaningful schemes for the marginalised and financially weaker sections of the society. From education to health, there has been no significant increase in budgetary allocation, nor are there any far-sighted plans for the betterment of the people.