The farm Bills passed in Parliament last week will not only destroy the procurement infrastructure which has been built painstakingly over five decades, but will also leave the farmers at the mercy of private players, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal told Harpreet Bajwa in an interview.
You party has opposed the farm Bills. What is your next course of action?
The forceful passage of the Bills in the Rajya Sabha is a cause of concern for the parliamentary democracy. The government should have allowed a division of votes. We will urge the President not to approve the Bills and return the same for reconsideration.
What are the main highlights of these Bills? Have you consulted experts?
The SAD followed a consultative process which involved interaction with farmers, farmer organisations, party workers as well as farm expert. The decision to oppose the Bills was taken only after completion of this process.
How are these Bills anti-farmer?
We are of the firm view that the agri Bills will not only destroy the procurement infrastructure which has been built painstakingly over a period of 50 years but will also leave the farmers at the mercy of private players. They will also endanger the MSP regime and will lead to loss for the state mandi boards. The Bills will destroy the livelihood of artiyas (commission agents) and mandi labour, besides having an adverse impact on farm labour.
Why does the BJP then say these are pro-farmer?
The BJP may have its own reasons and they may be based on the situation in most other states of the country. We have opposed the Bills because we feel they will have an adverse impact on farmers in Punjab, who enjoy 100 per cent procurement of foodgrains under the MSP regime as of now.
BJP says the MSP will continue. Why doesn’t the government enact a law that MSP will continue?
This is exactly what we has requested the BJP leadership. We had told them to insert a line stating that MSP as well as government procurement would continue uninterrupted. Unfortunately, this was not done.
Will the SAD be able to win over the farmers, who have been the backbone of the party, by opposing these legislations?
Every Akali is a farmer; so, there’s no question of winning over farmers. We are farmers ourselves; we have a long history of fighting for the cause of the farming community.
Elections in Punjab are a little over a year from now. Is the SAD trying to launch a sort of campaign?
Our concern is the interest of farmers. Elections may come and go. We may or may not be in government, but will continue to be the voice of the ‘annadata’.
Is your party going to sever ties with the BJP over the farm legislations?
This issue will be discussed threadbare with the party rank and file. Only after getting the feedback will we decide. .
Why did Harsimrat Kaur Badal wait for two-and-a-half months to resign from the Union Cabinet over these farm legislations?
Our alliance with the BJP is more than two decades old. We are the oldest partners of the NDA. We conveyed the apprehensions of the farmers visa-vis the Bill and held consultations with the BJP high command to make them see the viewpoint of the farmers.
The general perception is that SAD took a U-turn due to pressure from its core vote bank of farmers while it earlier appeared to be backing these Bills?
This is Congress propaganda.