Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, just a day after he met Union Home Minister Amit Shah. According to a release issued by the Punjab government, Amarinder urged the prime minister to immediately initiate steps for repealing the controversial farm laws and amendment to the relevant law for including farmers in free legal aid category.
The chief minister submitted two separate letters, and called for immediate review and revocation of the three farm laws. Amarinder said the ongoing farm stir had the potential of posing security threats for Punjab and the country with Pak-backed anti-India forces looking to exploit the farmers’ disgruntlement with the Government, the release stated.
Singh said the continued agitation was not only impacting economic activities in Punjab but also “had the potential to affect the social fabric, especially when political parties and groups take strong positions.”
“In another letter, the chief minister stressed that due to the fragmentation of landholdings, and persistent disputes with lessees and various market operators and agents, the farmers are also facing heightened litigation these days, causing stress on their meagre financial resources,” it read.
Stressing the need to reduce the farmers’ financial burden as a result of such litigation, Singh noted that the Central Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 provides free legal aid to certain categories of persons, who are perceived to be the vulnerable sections of the society. Pointing out that the country’s farmers are also very vulnerable, he said that they are, at times, compelled to commit suicide due to financial problems, even though they remain proud and prefer to till their land even at the cost of their lives, it said.
“It is, thus, the need of the hour to amend Section 12 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to include farmers and farm workers in the category of persons entitled to free legal services to pursue and defend themselves in the courts to secure their livelihood,” Amarinder said. He felt this step would help reduce cases of farmer suicides and ensure better protection of their legal and financial rights, it added.
The chief minister urged the Prime Minister to advise the concerned central ministries dealing with farmer welfare and laws to carry out necessary amendments to the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, in the larger interest of the farmers.
During his meeting with Shah on Tuesday, Amarinder had demanded repeal of the three farm laws, citing social, economic and security implications of a prolonged farmers’ agitation. Singh also sought 25 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and anti-drone gadgets for the Border Security Force (BSF) for protection from Pakistan-backed terror forces as Punjab is a border state and cited possible targeting of Hindu temples, prominent farmer leaders, RSS offices, RSS-BJP leaders among others.
On the other hand, the chief minister also called on Sonia Gandhi, a meeting that came amid talks of a possible Cabinet reshuffle in the state where assembly polls are scheduled to be held early next year. This was the first time that the chief minister met the party president after the appointment of Navjot Singh Sidhu as Punjab Congress chief, despite his opposition.