Official spokesman said "public presentation of certificates" necessary, otherwise farmers can be misled by Kisan Unions
Farmer unions slam govt's defence, call it insult to farmers' intelligence
CHANDIGARH: When was the last time you saw the Punjab Government holding a mega event attended by thousands of farmers, and then issuing press releases and making statements that it was actually very necessary to hold the mega event?
In fact, on such shaky grounds did the Amarinder Singh government feel merely 72 hours after the public jamboree at Mansa that today it actually discussed in a top level meeting if such an event should have been held, and whether similar events be held in the future.
So important was the issue for the Amarinder Singh government that an official statement informed the people that CM Amarinder Singh, Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Power Minister Rana Gurjit, Rural Development and Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, along with Chief Principal Secretary to CM Suresh Kumar, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Principal Secretary Tejvir Singh, Special Secretary Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Development) Viswajeet Khanna, Additional Chief Secretary (Cooperation) DP Reddy and Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Sunil Jakhar discussed the issue.
If the chief minister's advisors think that by terming the kisan unions as bodies indulging in false propaganda that harms the farmers, they are serving the Chief Minister and scoring brownie points for their political boss, then they are living in a fool's paradise, said BKU (Ugrahan) gen sec Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan.
The Punjab Government has been facing strong criticism for holding the mega-event where debt-ridden farmers who had not been able to pay off their debt were called to the stage one by one, with the entire world watching, and were given certificates announcing that their measly debt has been paid off by the state government.
The stories about farmers being handed over 6-feet long ridiculously mammoth certificates have put the Amarinder Singh government and its image managers in the dock as long time watchers of Punjab politics said scenes of such public humiliation of the poor in the name of sarkari benevolence seemed to be a thing of the past.
Here is the Punjab government's official defence of its decision to publicly put out the lists of the defaulter farmers, pasting these lists in the very villages where they and their relatives live, and then calling out the names of the farmers and handing them out the huge 6-feet long 'Parman Patars':
"The meeting was in favour of public presentation of the certificates so that the farmers are not misled on any count by the opposition or certain kisan unions seeking to promote their vested interests through false propaganda."
For earlier stories by Punjab Today on how the Punjab government should have handled the debt waiver event, please click the following:
# PUNJAB FARMERS AND IPL CRICKETERS – FINALLY THEY CAN STAND LIKE EQUALS
# ਮੁੱਖ ਮੰਤਰੀ ਸਾਹਬ, ਕਿਰਪਾ ਕਰਕੇ 7 ਜਨਵਰੀ ਦਾ ਪ੍ਰੋਗਰਾਮ ਰੱਦ ਕਰ ਦਿਓ। ਮੇਰੀ ਅਧਿਆਪਕਾ ਜਿਉਂਦੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹੀ, ਪਰ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਕਰਕੇ ਇਹਨੂੰ ਰੱਦ ਕਰੋ!
# Mr Chief Minister, please call off January 7 function. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!
# ਬੀਬੀ ਭੱਠਲ ਨਾਲ ਹੋਈ ਬੇਇਨਸਾਫ਼ੀ — ਨਹੀਂ ਸਹਾਂਗੇ, ਨਹੀਂ ਸਹਾਂਗੇ
A senior policy analyst said since Amarinder Singh had spoken to farmers in tens of rallies in the run up to the election that his government will waive off the farmers' debt, and since then, his government has issued hundreds of press releases and has spent lakhs on advertisements, besides the CM and his ministers appearing in tens of television interviews and giving sound bytes to media, it was remarkable that the government still thinks certain kisan unions can undertake some "false propaganda."
"By making public the names of the farmers, by calling out their names from a public address system, and by their handing over the 6-feet long certificates to farmers, the government had merely insulted the farmers for their poor economic situation, their poverty. With this new and official defence of the public function, it has also insulted their intelligence. Is the government telling the world that Punjab's farmers are so foolish, so gullible that they will not understand what is utterly false and what is so beneficial to them?" said Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan).
He said if the chief minister's advisors think that by terming the kisan unions as bodies indulging in false propaganda that harms the farmers, they are serving the Chief Minister and scoring brownie points for their political boss, then they are living in a fool's paradise.
Is the government telling the world that Punjab's farmers are so foolish, so gullible that they will not understand what is utterly false and what is so beneficial to them?"
A government official privy to the discussions in the meeting but who had strong reservations about the scale and style of the event said the CM would do himself a service if he opens channels for contrarian views rather than letting just a handful of paid employees to brief him on public perception.
At least two other officials who were briefed about the meeting conceded that the government's defence of its own mega function was an acknowledgement of the scathing criticism that it faced.
"We want the government to issue an item wise list of the expenditure incurred on the January 7 function. People should know the money that the government spent on tents, chairs, food, travel of ministers, the fuel consumed by official cavalcades, the sorties by the helicopter, the expenditure incurred on preparing 6-foot long certificates that were handed out to the farmers, and the money paid to Gurdas Mann. In fact, Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) is keen to know the name and face of the officials who suggested the idea of 6-feet long certificates," Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan said.
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