Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and five-time former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday returned the Padma Vibhushan award in protest against the “betrayal of the farmers by the government of India and the shocking indifference and contempt with which it is treating the ongoing peaceful and democratic agitation” of the farmers against the three farm Acts.
“I am who I am because of the people, especially the common farmer. Today, when he (farmer) has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhushan honour,” the veteran Akali leader wrote in a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind. He described the betrayal of the farmers by the government as “bolts from the blue on the already beleaguered peasantry of the country”, adding that the farmer finds himself waging bitter struggles in severe cold just to secure his fundamental right to live.
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SAD, one of the oldest constituents of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), had snapped ties with the BJP in September 2020 and pulled out of the alliance to protest against the agriculture marketing laws enacted by the Central government.
In a letter e-mailed to the President, Badal listed his reasons for feeling “hurt and betrayed” by the government’s attitude and actions against the farmers. “When the Government of India had brought the ordinances, assurances were given that the farmers’ apprehensions would be addressed to their satisfaction while bringing the relevant Bills and subsequently the Acts. Trusting these assurances, I even appealed to the farmers to believe the Government’s word. But I was shocked when the Government simply went back on its word,” he wrote.
The former chief minister described that period as the most painful and embarrassing moment in his long political career. “I just cannot put in words the pain and emotional stress which I have been going through since then. I have truly begun to wonder why has the Government of the country become so heartless, so cynical and so ungrateful towards the farmers,” he said. Badal also said he had been deeply pained by the communal insinuations being thrown at the peacefully and democratically protesting farmers.
Badal regretted that the government remains indifferent to the sufferings of the farmers. “The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of farmers crying out for justice in one voice in the national capital would have moved any other nation or its government,” he said. No such sensitivity towards the farmers’ pain and anger is visible here, he said, hoping that as the first citizen of the country and a conscientious public figure, the President too would be fully aware and perhaps as deeply concerned about these developments.
Badal felt apologetic that the pleas of farmer friendly parties like the Shiromani Akali Dal were mocked. “It was cynically suggested that farmers take loans just for ostentatious lifestyle. This cruel cynicism and malice against the farmers did not stop even when thousands of farmers in this country were and are being driven to take their own lives in a phenomenon called farmer suicides,” he said. He also came down heavily on the government, saying that while “corporate loans worth lakhs of crores are waived off with just a single thoughtless stroke of the governmental pen, no one has ever thought of even subsiding the farm debts, forget a complete waiver”.