Punjab farmers remained the focus of the address of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the national-level function on Monday here to observe the martyrdom anniversary of freedom fighters Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar whom the British had hanged in 1931.This was Modi’s first visit to the state as PM, as well as the first visit of a PM to Hussainiwala in 30 years after Rajiv Gandhi in 1985. Remembering the martyrs, Modi announced that the postgraduate institute of horticulture science and research given to Amritsar in the new Budget would be named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh.
Faced with severe opposition over his government’s Land Acquisition Bill, he stuck to his party’s position that it was “must for the development of farmers”. “I do not want to see children of farmers in the slums of Mumbai and Delhi. The bill must be passed so that the children of farmers can have employment,” he said, accusing the opposition of misguiding the people.
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He said his government had decided to enhance the allocation to Punjab in the next Five-Year Plan to Rs 54,000 crore from Rs 20,000 crore. The annual allocation for the development of state’s urban local bodies and panchayats had gone up from Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 6,000 crore, he said, assuring farmers affected by the recent hailstorm about the possibility of compensating them.
Highlighting the issue of depleting groundwater table and the overkill of chemical fertiliser input in the fields of Punjab, he asked the farmers in the gathering: “Punjab ka kya haal kar ke rakha hai (What have you people done to Punjab)?”
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Coining the slogan of “per drop, more crop”, he exhorted the farmers to adopt scientific methods such as drip irrigation for enhancing the yield; and make optimum use of the Centre’s soil health card scheme. He shared with them the plan to interlink major rivers. “Water is not reaching tail-end areas. Under the Prime Minister’s Krishi Vikas Yojna, we will repair and brick-line canals, but Punjab’s farmers should also save water,” Modi said.
Badal ‘senior statesman’
Addressing Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal as “varisht rajpurash” (senior statesman) at the start of his speech, the PM said he had “blood relations” with Punjab, as the state had been his political learning ground for two decades early on in his career. “I am honoured to have been groomed in politics by Badal, senior-most politician of the country.”
However, he took no note of the concerns that Badal and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Kamal Sharma had highlighted from the stage. He made no mention of the state’s drug problem, even after Sharma had asked him to put pressure on Pakistan to stop narco-terrorism. Earlier, the PM and Badal paid homage to freedom fighters Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Batukeshwar Dutt, and Rajmata Vidyawati and felicitated members of the families of these martyrs.
Also Read: PM invokes farmers' children to pitch for Land Bill
Badal plays safe on Land Bill
Badal, who showered praises on the PM about land acquisition bill, also made it clear that farmers’ consent should be taken before acquiring their land. But on this, he compared the opposition to Adolf Hitler’s’ propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and claimed Punjab’s land acquisition policy to be best. “Our policy is so good that farmers themselves ask us to acquire their land,” said Badal.
Allocation to state under next Five-Year Plan increased to Rs 54,000 crore from Rs 20,000 crore
Annual allocation for the development of urban local bodies and panchayats gone up from Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 6,000 crore
Canals to be repaired and brick-lined; farmers asked to adopt drip irrigation, make use of soil health scheme.
SIDELIGHTS FROM PM'S AMRITSAR VISIT
Hours before the PM was scheduled to arrive, all major roads were sealed. Even the tourists were harassed and this was the ostensible result of security agencies being on the job to ensure fool-proof security for the high-profile visit.
Metal detector at DPRO office
Such was the security hype and 'sensitivity' that even the District Public Relations Office was not spared. A metal detector and a battery of cops were stationed at the office juts to check the journalists before they headed for the Golden Temple.
The cops, who did not seem to understand that even reporters could visit the shrine as pilgrims, did not budge to the instructions given to them by their bosses, and did not allow reporters to budge from the rooftop. On the argument that they could not confine anyone inside the Golden Temple, the stock reply was that they were following the instructions of the seniors.
No respite for residents even after visit
Even as the PM left the Golden Temple, there was no respite for the pilgrims or locals. Those leaving the area again had to face a lot of hardship as no road was opened for traffic. People had to walk more than 2 km with their luggage, before any vehicle could be hired