Centre encroaching upon rights of states, jeopardising basic structure of democracy: Amarinder

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Chandigarh, Apr 5 (PTI) Attacking the BJP-led Centre over farm laws and other issues, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Monday accused it of 'jeopardising' the basic structure of democracy by allegedly 'encroaching upon' the rights of states.

He castigated the Central government over its 'one-sided decision' to impose the farm laws and the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) on the state's farming community.

In the name of 'so-called reforms', he alleged, the Centre was trying to destroy the existing relations and systems that had worked well for over 100 years.

Punjab's farmers and arhtiyas (commission agents) have enjoyed age-old cordial ties among them, which the Centre was “hell-bent on damaging', he alleged, terming the government's 'tough posturing and ill-conceived' decisions on farm laws as being against the basic spirit of federalism.

He said that during his earlier tenure, he enjoyed full confidence and support of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and subsequently of Manmohan Singh, in all major policy decisions/development issues related to Punjab, according to a government statement.

He was speaking during the virtual launch of a two-day Kisan Mela organised by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana.

The chief minister expressed solidarity with the farmers against the 'black' farm laws imposed by the Centre 'in violation' of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution which clearly states that Agriculture is a state subject.

'The Centre has deliberately impinged upon the state's power, thus jeopardizing the basic structure of democracy,' he alleged.

Singh stressed that the Centre should have taken the farmers into confidence before enactment of these legislations.

'Had the Centre been sincere about finding a workable solution to this problem, it would have either consulted the Punjab government or the state's farmers as Punjab alone contributes over 40 per cent of foodgrain to the national pool,' he asserted.

The CM said that Punjab initially not even a part of the deliberations on the agricultural reforms, and was rather included in the high-powered committee only after he wrote to the Centre.

Resultantly, he added, the state's Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and the then Secretary Agriculture KS Pannu attended two meetings, but there was no mention of these controversial farm laws there, he added.

Claiming that 144 farmers have died so far during their agitation, he said his government was giving Rs 5 lakh and a job to a kin of the deceased farmers, while the Centre continued to be 'insensitive to their pain'.

Pointing to the growing problem of scarcity of surface as well as underground water, the CM urged the farmers to go for drip irrigation in a big way to save the state from becoming a 'desert' in the near future.

The fast-depleting water table is a major challenge for the state and the only solution is to get out of the paddy-wheat cycle to save this precious resource, he said.

Talking about the COVID-19 situation, he asked people not to be complacent but to take all necessary precautions like wearing masks, regularly washing hands and maintaining social distancing, besides getting vaccinated if they are eligible.

Though the situation in the state was alarming, he would 'not allow it to become another Mumbai', he asserted. PTI CHS VSD TIR TIR