CM playing 'fixed match' with Centre: SAD on Punjab's decision to implement DBT for farmers

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Chandigarh, Apr 9 (PTI) The Shiromani Akali Dal on Friday accused Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of keeping farmers and 'arhatiyas' in the dark on the Centre's direct bank transfer (DBT) scheme and said he was playing a 'fixed match' with the Modi dispensation.

Senior party leader Prem Singh Chandumajra said the DBT scheme would 'increase social strife' and poison relations between farmers and 'arhatiyas'.

Punjab procures wheat and rice at minimum support price (MSP) on behalf of the Centre under the National Food Security Act. So far, MSP to farmers in Punjab has been paid through 'arhatiyas'. However, starting April 10, when wheat procurement will begin in the state, the payment will be made directly to farmers' bank accounts under the DBT scheme.

Addressing a press conference here, Chandumajra along with party leaders Tota Singh and Sikander Singh Maluka said Amarinder Singh had made a big show of opposing the DBT scheme and announced during a recent meeting with 'arhatiyas' that come what may, all payments for foodgrain procurement would be routed through them.

'However, the Punjab ministerial team led by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal abjectly surrendered before the Centre in its meeting with (Union) minister Piyush Goyal yesterday (Thursday),' Chandumajra said.

'It is also a fact that the Congress government had committed in writing to implement the scheme from the forthcoming rabi season. Despite this, the government resorted to a drama to befool the people in the same manner as the Congress party befooled and deceived all sections of society with false promises in the 2017 assembly elections,' he said.

The SAD leaders also announced that the party's top leadership would fan out across the state's 'mandis' on Saturday to ensure procurement is initiated in earnest, as well as to secure the rights of farmers.

On Thursday, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said the state government had 'no choice' but to implement the Centre's mandated instruction on the direct bank transfer of MSP to farmers from the current procurement season.

Badal, after a lengthy discussion with Union Food Minister Piyush Goyal on the issue, said the Centre rejected the state government's demand to give it more time to implement the DBT scheme.

The SAD leaders further demanded that the over 50 per cent hike in fertiliser prices announced by the Centre be rolled back. The party asked the chief minister why he was not opposing the measure that, it claimed, was aimed at punishing farmers for protesting against the new agricultural laws.

The Akali leaders further castigated the chief minister for allegedly not upholding the principle of federalism and allowing the Centre to infringe on the state's rights.

They alleged that the Centre was not disbursing Rs 800 crore due to Punjab on account of the Rural Development Fund (RDF) and demanding that the tax be reduced from the present three per cent to one per cent.

They said states were well within their rights to levy this tax and that it was surprising that the chief minister hadn't taken up the issue strongly with the Centre.

The Akali leaders also demanded the withdrawal of infrastructure cess on petrol and diesel, besides a reduction in Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products. PTI VSD DIV DIV