Pay MSP to farmers, Navjot Sidhu tells Punjab govt.

Congress legislator tells him own government to ‘honour aspirations of 3 crore Punjabis’

Even as he hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre over the three farm laws, former Punjab Cabinet minister and currently a legislator of the ruling Congress party in Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu, on Thursday asked his own Congress government in the State to use its power to legislate to ensure assured procurement of oilseeds and lentils at the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

Also read: Navjot Sidhu tenders apology for hurting Sikh sentiments

Mr. Sidhu said the Centre’s three farm laws were an infringement on the State’s right to legislate and that the Centre could not scuttle the legislative sphere of the States. “Thus, we have enough grounds to completely deny the implementation of these black laws in Punjab.

Yet why, in this case, are we just amending the Central laws and sending them back, when we know very well that all these amendments will not be implemented until either approved by the President of India or if the Central laws are first withdrawn? By means of mere amendments, we are going to the Constitutional head, who may not choose to help us, and maybe is not a good position to be in at this decisive critical juncture. Instead, why not use the democratic power given to us by 3 crore Punjabis by honouring their aspirations?” said Mr. Sidhu.

Mr. Sidhu, a legislator of the ruling Congress party in Punjab, addressing a press conference here, said that to help farmers get MSP, there should be an expansion of procurement beyond wheat and rice in the State. He added farmers cannot diversify until MSP is provided and there’s assured procurement.

“To begin with, Punjab can procure pulses and oilseeds through Markfed or PunSup on MSP. Punjab imports pulses and edible oils for our own consumption. Keep aside the money we use to import pulses and edible oil from outside and utilise it to procure from Punjab itself. State Corporations can further process oil seeds and market them outside Punjab… In future, Punjab can expand MSP and assurance of procurement to vegetables and fruits. For this to become reality, we must take the second necessary step today,” he said.

Also read: Navjot Sidhu meeting Sonia Gandhi triggers speculation about new role for him

Mr. Sidhu also asked the Congress government to provide a scheme for income support to agricultural labourers. “I demand that we give MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act)-like income support to all agricultural labour in Punjab. It will benefit not only the labour as an increment in their daily wages but also help the farmer as an agricultural labour subsidy and ease their [the farmers’] financial burden. We should increase the minimum wages of labour, linking it to inflation and the government should directly pay the difference. 36% of Punjabis are Dalits, owning only 2% of land. Most of them work as labour. Let us support them,” he said.

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