Kept pleading with govt not to go ahead with farm bills: Harsimrat Kaur Badal
Harsimrat Kaur Badal said she feels saddened that her voice in support of farmers was not heard and demanded that the government should pause on these legislations by referring them to a parliamentary panel for wider consultations.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader who stepped down as the Union food processing minister on Thursday night, said on Friday that she kept pleading with the government not to go ahead with farm bills until all apprehensions and fears of farmers are cleared.
“I kept on protesting ever since these ordinances were circulated for comments in the Cabinet. I was acting like a bridge between farmers and the government to clear all doubts and fears of farmers. I kept on pleading that the government should not bring these bills until all apprehensions and fears of farmers are cleared,” Badal told PTI in an interview.
She said she feels saddened that her voice in support of farmers was not heard and demanded that the government should pause on these legislations by referring them to a parliamentary panel for wider consultations.
“I left my mother in ICU in the hospital to fulfill my duty to attend Parliament debate on these three legislations and register my protest. Thereafter, I resigned in protest against these proposed legislations,” Badal said.
She said there is no point in bringing these bills while presenting them as being in the interest of farmers when the farmers themselves have apprehensions about these measures.
“I feel very saddened about the fact that my voice was not heard in the Cabinet and the government did not send it to a parliamentary select committee for consultations with all stakeholders including farmers. If my voice had been heard, farmers would not have come out on roads to protest,” she added.
Badal resigned soon after her husband and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal strongly opposed the bills in Lok Sabha on Thursday night, claiming these proposed legislations will destroy the agriculture sector in Punjab, and announced that Harsimrat Kaur Badal will quit the government in protest against these three bills.
Badal, who first became Union Minister for Food Processing in 2014 and retained the portfolio in the second term of the BJP-led NDA government starting 2019, said she kept on pleading with the government not to move ahead with these bills without taking farmers on board.
SAD voted against the three bills -- Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, which were passed by voice vote in Lok Sabha.
Congress and several other opposition parties are also opposing these bills, while SAD is the only NDA member to come out against these proposed legislations that seek to replace the ordinances already promulgated by the government.
Emphasising that the government should not rush with these bills, Badal said it should be referred to a select committee of Parliament and all stakeholders should be consulted on these proposed legislations.
On her resignation, Harsimrat said, “Please don’t see this as a resignation, as this was my duty as a representative of Punjab and of farmers.”
On Punjab chief minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh calling her resignation a ‘drama’, hitting back at him she said, “He himself is the biggest drama and the biggest liar.”
“Amarinder Singh and Congress are doing double-speak. When these ordinances were planned, all chief ministers were consulted and he had concurred. Also, these three bills were part of the Congress party’s manifesto for the 2017 assembly elections manifesto and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” she added.
Badal said Singh failed to fulfil all other promises made in the Congress party’s manifesto, barring this one and farmers in Punjab are now on roads and are paying the price for his misdeeds.
Asked whether SAD would pull out of the NDA also, Badal said it was for the party to decide and a collective decision would be taken on that issue by all senior leaders together.
Badal had also recalled this decades-old association between the two parties in her resignation letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
Describing her tenure as minister as ‘a remarkable and most memorable period of my life’, Badal said she was satisfied that the NDA-led government delivered on many critical and long-standing issues of the Sikh community, including justice for 1984 riots victims.
(With inputs from PTI)