Hailing budget by Sukhbir Badal brazen sycophancy: Punjab Chief Minister

Chandigarh (IANS): Ridiculing Sukhbir Badal’s remarks welcoming the Union Budget as pro-farmer and pro-poor, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday termed it a case of brazen sycophancy with nothing to substantiate the tall claims of the Akali chief.

The Chief Minister wondered what Sukhbir had found to be positive for the farmers in the budget, which even agriculture experts and farmer bodies had rejected as totally bereft of any initiative to save the agrarian sector.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was blinded by power and could not see the problems faced by the farmers, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President was apparently so blinded by his sycophant love for the ruling party that he could see nothing wrong in their actions, said Amarinder Singh in a statement.

Despite having three ministers in the Union Cabinet from the state, the BJP-Akali combine have failed to secure a debt relief scheme for the farmers, who continue to reel under massive debt burdens, not just in Punjab but across the country, the Chief Minister said.

Questioning Sukhbir’s reaction hailing the Rs 15 lakh crore budgetary allocation for the agriculture sector, Amarinder Singh asked how the Akali leader thought the mere 10 per cent increase over last year for agriculture and allied sectors to be sufficient to tackle the grave crisis faced by the debt-ridden farmers.

With this measly allocation, which comes nowhere near meeting the needs of the farmers, how does Sukhbir hopes to see the farmers’ income getting doubled in the next two years, he asked.

And without farmer uplift, there was no possibility of rural consumption going up, which would naturally scuttle economic growth even further, said the Chief Minister.

Sukhbir’s refusal to acknowledge and admit that there is a serious crisis prevailing in the agriculture sector is symptomatic of the Akalis’ totally non-alienation from the grassroots, which was the root cause of their political demise in Punjab, the Chief Minister said.

“How else can one explain Sukhbir’s complete failure to accept that his own state’s farmers are crying for help, which only the central government can provide?” he asked.

Amarinder Singh said that while his government was doing its best in Punjab, a holistic national policy, encompassing debt waiver, minimum support price (MSP) for all crops and diversification, etc. was the only long-term solution to the problem. Nothing has, unfortunately, been proposed in the budget to encourage crop diversification, despite the fact that buffer stocks of food grains are already putting the states and farmers under extreme stress, he said.

Further, said the Chief Minister, there was nothing in the budget to ensure the procurement of alternative MSP crops, which was critical to promoting diversification and breaking the vicious wheat-paddy cycle that alone could alleviate the farmers’ woes and boost their income.

Pointing to the exclusion of the water-stressed areas identified by the central government for its water conservation schemes, Amarinder Singh said it was time for Sukhbir and his colleagues to open their eyes to these problems, and to stop sacrificing Punjab and its people to their own political interests.