Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh in a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested him to start the process of withdrawing controversial farm laws, against which farmers have been protesting for a year. Mr Singh also asked PM Modi to amend the relevant law for including farmers in free legal aid category.
Mr Singh, who called on PM Modi this evening, handed over two separate letters - one called for immediate review and revocation of the three farm laws that had triggered "widespread resentment" among farmers in Punjab and other states, who have been protesting along the border in Delhi since November last year, and the other sought inclusion of farmers in categories of people who are eligible to get free legal aid.
"Pointing to the prolonged agitation, which had cost the lives of more than 400 farmers and farm workers, the Chief Minister said the protest had the potential of posing security threats for Punjab and the country with Pakistan-backed anti-India forces looking to exploit the farmers' disgruntlement with the government," the Punjab government said in a statement.
"...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," Mr Singh said.
The government has held several rounds of talks with farmer unions and ruled out withdrawing the laws, but has reasserted that it is open to amendments.
The farmers say they will accept nothing short of the government cancelling the laws, which they believe will kill their guaranteed earnings and benefit corporates. They have refused to buy the central government's argument that the laws will bring long-delayed reforms in the agriculture sector by doing away with middlemen and allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country.
Mr Singh, in the second letter to PM Modi, said due to fragmentation of landholdings and persistent disputes with lessees, market operators and agents, farmers are facing heightened litigation these days, which has caused stress on their meagre financial resources.
The Central Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 provides free legal aid to certain categories of people, who are seen to be vulnerable sections of society. Mr Singh said farmers are also vulnerable and at times, they are compelled to commit suicide due to financial problems. "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," Mr Singh said in the statement released by the Punjab government.