Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has accused the ruling Amarinder Singh government of surrendering to the Modi government at the Centre. This allegation was made a day before wheat procurement would commence in Punjab, the payment for which would be made directly to the farmers through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme. Further, the party alleged that Punjab’s Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had kept the farmers and 'arhatiyas' in the dark on the scheme and he was playing a "fixed match" with the Modi dispensation. On behalf of the Centre, the crops: Wheat and rice are procured by Punjab at a minimum support price (MSP) under the National Food Security Act.
In Punjab Till now, this MSP was paid to the farmers through 'arhatiyas'. But, this year, starting April 10, when procurement of wheat will begin in the state, this MSP payment will be made directly to farmers' bank accounts under the DBT scheme.
Responding to this, Senior SAD leader Prem Singh Chandumajra said “the DBT scheme would increase social strife and poison relations between farmers and 'arhatiyas'.” A press conference was conducted by the SAD’s party members at Chandigarh. This press conference was headed by the party leaders, namely, Chandumajra, Tota Singh, and Sikander Singh Maluka. During this, they commented that “Amarinder Singh had made a big show of opposing the DBT scheme and announced during a recent meeting with 'arhatiyas' that come what may, all payments for foodgrain procurement would be routed through them. However, the Punjab ministerial team led by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal abjectly surrendered before the Centre in its meeting with (Union) minister Piyush Goyal yesterday (Thursday). It is also a fact that the Congress government had committed to writing to implement the scheme from the forthcoming rabi season. Despite this, the government resorted to a drama to befool the people in the same manner as the Congress party befooled and deceived all sections of society with false promises in the 2017 assembly elections.”
One more announcement was made by the SAD leaders that “the party's top leadership would fan out across the state's 'mandis' on Saturday to ensure procurement is initiated in earnest, as well as to secure the rights of farmers.”
It should be noted that Punjab’s finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal had previously said that “the state government had "no choice" but to implement the Centre's mandated instruction on the direct bank transfer of MSP to farmers from the current procurement season. After a lengthy discussion with Union food minister Piyush Goyal on the issue, the Centre rejected the state government's demand to give it more time to implement the DBT scheme.”
The opposition SAD also raised a demand to roll back the hike in fertilizers price of over 50 percent, which was announced by the Centre.
The party leaders then raised a question that “why the Chief Minister was not opposing the measure that, it claimed, was aimed at punishing farmers for protesting against the new agricultural laws.” Further, the SAD leaders criticized the Chief Minister for allegedly not upholding the principle of federalism and allowing the Centre to infringe on the state's rights. They accused that “the Centre was not disbursing Rs 800 crore due to Punjab on account of the Rural Development Fund (RDF) and demanding that the tax be reduced from the present three percent to one percent. The states were well within their rights to levy this tax and that it was surprising that the chief minister hadn't taken up the issue strongly with the Centre.” At last, the SAD leaders demanded the withdrawal of infrastructure cess on petrol and diesel, besides a reduction in Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products.