Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar on Wednesday demanded the resignation of state agriculture minister Tota Singh, saying even the Akali-BJP government has not right to be in power after failing to bring farmers out of financial crisis.
Jakhar was speaking in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha on the resolution that parliamentary affairs minister Madan Mohan Mittal had moved to express concern over the financial crisis in agriculture and how farmers could be bailed out at the earliest. The resolution said the Punjab government should take up the matter with the Centre and get farmers remunerative price and insurance cover for their crops.
Jakhar, who spoke alone from the Congress benches for about an hour and 40 minutes, said it would have been better if the agriculture minister had moved the resolution, “but perhaps he was not confident enough to defend the state farmers are in”. “He has failed to punish officials in the pesticide-and-seed scam and so he should quit,” the leader of the Opposition said.
Pointing at chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Jakhar said that since September 22 last, he (Badal) had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi eight times to seek his intervention to solve farmers’ problems but the latter had not responded even once. “When the prime minister came to Ferozepur on March 23, instead of seeking a financial package for Punjab, he (Badal) only praised the new system of devolution of taxes to the states and claimed it would bring loads of money to Punjab, which didn’t happen,” said the Congress leader.
He said when the PM had come to inaugurate the Mohali airport on September 11, Badal had only pointed towards the empty chairs and promised a bigger gathering next time. “At no time, Badal sought financial aid for Punjab and its farmers. On the contrary, when Badal sought help in January 2010 from the-then prime minister Manmohan Singh during a long dry spell in Punjab, the latter released `800 crore immediately to bail out distressed farmers,” Jakhar added. “You always claim to champion the cause of the farmers but you have shattered their dreams actually. You were voted to power by farmers but you did nothing tangible for the peasantry during your tenure. You can still providing them with cheap diesel, interest-free loan, debt relief, and insurance cover,” said Jakhar.
“It’s easy to stand in a pinstripe suit and say ‘Achhe din aa gaye’ (good days have come), but in reality, farmers’ land is being hypothecated and mortgaged every day,” said the Congress leader. On the whitefly crisis in Punjab, he said it was manmade and not a natural calamity as being made out to be and officials responsible and reporting directly to Badal had been rewarded and not punished.
Jakhar said none of the pesticides distributed among farmers to kill whitefly was ever tested in Punjab. “Moreover, it was sold to famers for far more than the open-market price. In my constituency, a chief agricultural officer made `5,000 from each pesticide dealer,” he alleged.