Centre reaches out to farmers again

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 18, 2021

Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Friday   -  PTI

Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri renews offer of dialogue, attacks Punjab government for profiteering on Covid-19 vaccines

With a few months remaining before the Assembly polls process begins in Punjab, the original site of still-ongoing anti-farm laws agitation, the Centre on Friday fielded Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri to make yet another offer of talks to the protesting farmers on behalf of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

At a press conference, Puri focussed on the Centre’s efforts towards ensuring availability of Covid-19 drugs and vaccines in Punjab and mounted a strong offensive against the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in the State. He simultaneously addressed the farm laws issue that is most likely going to dominate the poll campaign in the northern State. Puri also cited several initiatives such as exempting langars from GST, starting Kartarpur Sahib corridor, granting FCRA to Golden Temple as PM and the Centre’s goodwill towards Punjab and the Sikhs in particular. He then asserted that the PM personally and the government is ready to “sit and clear all doubts” about the farm laws.

“The Honourable Prime Minister personally and the government have made it repeatedly clear that if there are any doubts, we are ready to sit with you. And I reiterate that. There are several commentators on this issue; I call them up individually and ask them to clear all residual doubts. We are open to all suggestions. But the template has to be to benefit farmers. If there are systems that have been going on for years and intermediaries and the mandi rates are there, we can discuss all of it. We are not averse to anything but it cannot be at the expense of the farmers. The hard-working farmer is the primary beneficiary and has to be rewarded. Anything else can be discussed,” said the Union Minister.

Puri underlined that it has been a year since the farm laws were promulgated as ordinances and none of the expected repercussions of the new laws like abolition of the mandis or the MSPs have come true. He also underlined that procurement has not just broken all records in Rabi as well as Kharif seasons, farmers have been given ₹26,000 crore as direct cash transfers.

“You can’t talk about Punjab without mentioning our Annadatas. When these draft legislations were before Parliament, it was being said that there is a grand scheme to hand over agriculture and agricultural land to the industrialists, mandis will be abolished, procurement will not take place under MSP. But during the procurement season in October, last year, the process was brought forward by a week so that more people could participate. Procurement at that time exceeded all expectations and broke all records. Recently, wheat procurement too exceeded all previous targets. The lies about MSP abolition, closure of mandis have been nailed. Hopefully, now more private investment will come in cold storage and chains and wastage can be prevented. Through the direct benefit, ₹26,000 crore has gone directly into the hands of our farmers. People ask me what has it got to do with the farm laws and I tell them that the whole orientation of our policy paradigm is to put money directly in the hands of the farmers, money which was being syphoned off through the layers of the intermediaries goes directly to the intended beneficiary who is the farmer,” said Puri.

Puri counted the steps taken by the Centre to help Punjab manage its Covid-19 crisis and attacked the local Congress government for “profiteering” from the centrally-procured vaccines by selling them off to the private hospitals for a higher price. He cited a statistical analysis to assert that the Remdesivir supply to Punjab was 632 per 100,000 people which was double than the two BJP-ruled States, Assam, which got 333 per 100,000 and Uttar Pradesh which got 264 doses per 100,000. He said by October, 41 oxygen plants funded through PMCARES funds will become functional in Punjab.

Puri launched a scathing attack on the Punjab government for profiteering on the vaccines.

“Punjab procured 4.29 lakh doses of Covishield for ₹13.25 crore which comes up to about ₹309 per dose. They procured 1.14190 doses of Covaxin for ₹4.70 crore which comes up to ₹412 per dose. And they profiteered on these vaccines. On an average they profiteered up to ₹750 per dose. In two hospitals in Chandigarh, Max and Fortis, a single dose is costing ₹3,200. And one of their MPs says that if they are profiteering on vaccines and pumping the money back into Covid management, it cannot be termed profiteering! And this is when common people are paying a higher price for the vaccine,” said Pu

Published on June 18, 2021

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