Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday reiterated that violation of the weekend lockdown in Punjab will not be allowed given the grim COVID-19 situation, even as 32 farmer unions took out protest marches against the restriction at several places in the state.
Farmer leaders have alleged that the government imposed the lockdown to hide its failure in handling the coronavirus situation and wants to weaken the farmers’ movement against the Centre’s new farm laws.
These restrictions are in place to save lives and not to “sabotage” the farmers’ movement against the Centre’s new farm laws, Mr Singh said and added that his government was also vehemently opposed to the legislations.
“There are lives at stake, saving them is our priority, and it is the responsibility of every Punjabi to save them,” the chief minister said, urging leaders of farmer unions Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) and BKU (Ekta Dakaounda) not to misinterpret his Friday comments.
Amid a call of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) to oppose the weekend lockdown, Mr Singh had on Friday asked the state police chief to strictly enforce all the weekend restrictions and not allow any violation at any cost.
The SKM, an umbrella body of over 40 farmers’ unions, is leading the protest against the central farm laws which were enacted in September last year.
Nobody can be allowed to play with the lives of people, the chief minister said on Saturday.
Mr Singh said that leaders of the two organisations had misinterpreted his statement to raise doubts about his intentions towards the ongoing farmers’ stir against the “black” farm laws.
“How can my government go against the interests of farmers when it was the first in the country to move amendment laws in the state assembly to annul the draconian farm laws of the Central government,” he said in a statement issued here.
Mr Singh said as far as the central laws are concerned, his government’s stand against them has been clear and consistent.
Farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, are demanding rollback of the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
However, the government has maintained that the new laws will bring better opportunities to farmers and introduce new technologies in agriculture.
Noting that the COVID-19 situation in Punjab is extremely grim, the chief minister said that as on May 6, the state had a 24-hour caseload of 8,874, 154 deaths, 265 patients admitted in isolation facilities, 30 patients on high dependency units and 16 on ventilator support.
“This is not the time to play politics but to put all our energies into protecting the life of every human being,” he said.
Appealing to farmers to extend all support and cooperation to the state government in its endeavour to combat the COVID-19 crisis, Mr Singh said the lives and safety of the people of Punjab were of paramount interest to his government.
He reiterated that he would not allow anyone to further endanger the lives of Punjabis amid the escalating crisis.
The state government has stood with farmers in their fight against the “draconian” farm laws of the Centre and continues to do so, as it strongly believes them to be a direct “threat” to the very existence and livelihood of farmers, Mr Singh said.
But at the moment, the state government is completely focused on saving lives, while ensuring that they do not suffer due to the harsh measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, he said.
Mr Singh said to alleviate sufferings of the people, he had even asked the deputy commissioners to allow opening of even non-essential shops and private offices on rotation basis.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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