Chandigarh: Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Wednesday slammed the BJP-led Center for “targeting” Punjab farmers for farm fires, alleging that the saffron party wants to take revenge on the state’s farmers for breaking its “pride” with the year-long agitation against it. Repeal of the Agrarian Act.
Mann’s statement came a day after the BJP targeted the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab over the rising number of straw burning incidents and asked it to wake up from its “deep slumber”.
Further hitting out at the BJP for “defaming” the state’s farmers for pollution, Mann asked the Center why it did not talk about neighboring regions like Haryana, wondering if “Switzerland has settled” there.
Calling the BJP “anti-farmer”, Mann asked, “don’t abuse us and threaten us” and give a solution for stubble management.
In a video message, Mann said, “The central government is abusing the Delhi and Punjab governments in the media every day, blaming the farmers of Punjab, asking why they (farmers) burn paddy? Why did pollution increase in Delhi?
The Chief Minister accused the Center of not agreeing to the proposal to give cash incentives to farmers for stubble management.
“But the Center did not accept our plan,” he said.
The AAP government had proposed that the Center would pay Rs 1,500 per acre and the Delhi and Punjab governments would give each farmer Rs 500 for stubble management.
He also said that many factories wanted to set up bio-energy etc. projects in Punjab due to availability of straw and complained that permission was not given by the Centre.
Farmers claim they don’t want to set fire to crop residue, but they are forced to do so, Mann said, before going anywhere else, smoke first passes through a farmer’s village and his family’s lungs.
He accused the Center of politicizing the issue but not offering any straw-burning solutions.
“When we offer solutions (for stump management), they (the Centre) don’t agree to it,” Mann said.
“I don’t understand one thing, why only Delhi and Punjab? What about Haryana,” he asked.
Mann also showed data on air quality indicators for several areas in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.
Faridabad in Haryana ranks number one in terms of poor air quality, he said.
“It appears that Punjab and Delhi are only spreading pollution when they see Switzerland in the surrounding area. Is there no pollution by nearby places,” asked Mann while taking a dig at the Center for blaming Punjab alone for the pollution.
“Prime Minister Ji, this is the problem of North India. You call Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and UP. This is the problem of North India. And you are not ready to spend a single penny,” he said.
He criticized the Center for not looking into the decline in paddy yield due to dwarfism and not offering compensation for the same.
Showing some letters written by the Center to Punjab, Mann said the Indian government is only asking the state how many more FIRs have been registered against erring farmers compared to last year.
“Do you consider the farmers of Punjab to be criminals,” he said, adding that this would not solve the problem.
“Sitting in your AC room you start abusing the farmers of (Centre) Punjab,” he said.
“Perhaps the Center has a grudge against the farmers of Punjab because the agitation has bruised its ego,” he claimed, slamming the Center and the BJP for allegedly insulting the state’s farmers.
Describing himself as a farmer’s son, Mann said he met leaders of farmers’ organizations who also said they did not want to burn straw. Farmers want to move out of the paddy crop, Mann said, asking the Center to give MSP on alternative crops.
Facing opposition’s ire over crop residue management machines, Mann said 1.20 lakh such machines have been distributed to farmers and a massive awareness program on stubble burning has been launched.
He also noted that many village panchayats have even passed resolutions against burning of crop residues.
“The BJP wants to take revenge on the farmers of Punjab for breaking the central government’s arrogance by organizing a very big movement. It will not be tolerated,” he said.
“BJP has been anti-farmer since day one. It has failed to legislate before,” he said.
He asked the Center to provide a solution for stubble burning.
“Don’t abuse us. Don’t threaten us. Don’t ask us how many FIRs have been registered against farmers. Give us a solution. The Center has a solution and has plenty of funds,” Mann said.