CHANDIGARH: Five-time former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday returned the Padma Vibhushan award in protest against the 'betrayal' of farmers by the Union government.
In a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, Badal wrote that he was returning the award due to the shocking indifference and contempt with which the government was treating the ongoing peaceful and democratic agitation of the farmers against the three farm Acts.
"I write this letter to return the Padam Vibhushan award in protest against the betrayal of the farmers by the Government of India and against the shocking indifference and contempt with which the Govt is treating the ongoing peaceful and democratic agitation of the farmers against the Farm Acts. When the Government of India had brought the Ordnances, assurances were given that the farmers’ apprehensions on these Ordinances would be addressed to their satisfaction while bringing the relevant Bills and subsequently the Acts. Trusting these assurances, I even appealed to the farmers to believe the Government’s word. But I was shocked when the Government simply went back on its word," he wrote.
The letter further stated, "That was the most painful and embarrassing moment in my long political career. I just cannot put in words the emotional stress which I have been going through since then. I have truly begun to wonder why has the Government of the country become so heartless, so cynical and so ungrateful towards the farmers. While writing this letter to you, I am conscious that I address myself to a President who presides over the destiny of a population 70 per cent of whom are farmers. For over 70 years, these farmers have been serving the country as its “Annadata” with the most selfless and self effacing humility."
"Today however, the same farmer finds himself forced to wage bitter struggles just to secure his fundamental right to live. The three Acts fell as bolts from the blue on the already beleaguered peasantry of the country. Isn’t it amazing and unjust that lakhs of crores of corporate loans are waived off with just a single thoughtless stroke of the governmental pen. But no one has ever
thought of even subsiding the farm debts, forget a complete waiver. Instead, the country chose to let its Annadata die," he added.
He wrote, "Against this background, the Black Laws now implemented by the governmentt have come as the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the country’s annadata. The farmers are out on the streets battling police batons, tear gas shells and water cannons even as their sources of livelihood dry up. They have come to the national Capital from all over the country, leaving their fields, crops and even their families and travelled long distances – thousands of kilometers in some cases – to get the attention of their own government. They have shown incredible and unprecedented restraint, maturity and responsibility in keeping their protests totally peaceful and democratic. But conspiracies and vicious propaganda are unleashed to paint this peaceful struggle as
"Thus, when the country honoured me with the enviable honour of Padam Vibhushan, I knew that it was only in acknowledgement of my commitment to the people of Punjab in which the farmers featured most prominently. I owe it to them. But today, when even the survival of the farmers - because of whom I am who I am - has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhushan honour. Accordingly, I have decided to return this honour in protest against the government’s betrayal of the farmers on the three Acts in question. The farmers of my state and country are out on the streets agitating against these Acts in this cold winter far away from their homes. And I feel so poor that at
this stage of my life, I do not have much else to sacrifice to express solidarity with the farmers’ cause," the letter stated.
He wrote, "I am deeply pained also by the communal insinuations being thrown at the peacefully and democratically protesting farmers. I can assure you that they have secular ethos running in their blood and are the best guarantee for safeguarding the country’s secular, democratic values and character which face serious challenges from some other quarters."
Former Union minister and SAD (Democratic) President Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa also announced that he would be returning his Padma Bhushan award. Dhindsa was presented the Padma Bhushan -- the third highest civilian award -- by President Kovind last year for his contribution in the field of public affairs.