NEW DELHI—Veteran politician and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Prakash Singh Badal, a five-time former chief minister of Punjab, has returned his Padma Vibhushan award to the President of India against what he says as “betrayal of the farmers by the government of India”.
In a letter mailed to President Ram Nath Kovind today, he said that he was returning the award against the “shocking indifference and contempt with which the government is treating the ongoing peaceful democratic agitation against the Farm Acts”. Badal described the Three Farm Laws as “Black Laws” in the letter.
He said that he was honoured with Padma Vibhushan for his commitment to the cause of farmers. “But today, when even the survival of the farmers because of whom I am who Iam, has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhsuhan honour”, he said in the letter.
For the last six days, the farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and many other states have been blockading Delhi to demand withdrawal of three Farm Acts which they says is against the interest of the entire farming community but the government has taken the position that the laws were framed to protect the interest of farmers.
Stating that when the government decided to bring Farm Ordinance, it had assured that the concerns of farmers would be addressed. “But I was shocked when the government went back on its words”, said Badal, whose SAD was a constituent of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) till recently before her daughter-in-law Harsimrat kaur, a union minister, resigned from her portfolio and SAD quit NDA after farmers gheraoed Badal’s house in Badal village in Shri Muktsar district.
“I have truly begun to wonder why has the government become so heartless, so cynical and so ungrateful towards the farmers when 70 per cent of the country’s population are farmers and for over 70 years, these farmers have been serving the country as its ‘annadata’ with the most selfless and self-effacing humility”, he said in the letter.
He further pointed out that “when the country faced hunger and humiliation in 1960s, having to beg for food in world capitals, the government turned to farmers to pull it out of starvation. The farmer responded so heartily that in a matter of three years, he turned the country from a food-begging to a food exporting country”.
“But today, the same farmer has to wage a struggle just to secure his fundamental right tolive”, he remarked.
Stating that the farmers’ condition had worsened over the years owing to wrong policies of the government, he said, “Against this background, the Black Laws now implemented by the government have come as the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the country’s ‘annadata’. The farmers are out on the streets battling police batons, tear gas shells and water cannons even as their sources of livelihood dry up”.