New Delhi: Upset over the Centre’s “betrayal” of farmers, former Punjab chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, 92, on Thursday returned his Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award.
In his letter addressed to the President of India, Badal, whose party was one of the oldest allies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre, said it was “the most painful and embarrassing moment in my long political career” when the Centre did not take farmers’ apprehensions into consideration, despite giving assurances on the same, and turned the 3 agri ordinances into laws.
“I am who I am because of the people, especially the common farmer. Today when he has lost more than his honour, I see no point in holding on to the Padma Vibhushan honour,” the SAD leader said.
#Breaking ; Punjab's Former Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal writes to the President of India returning his #PadmaVibhushan award. pic.twitter.com/hD4x9P5ARc
— Ravinder Singh Robin ਰਵਿੰਦਰ ਸਿੰਘ راویندرسنگھ روبن (@rsrobin1) December 3, 2020
“Parkash Badal today returned the Padma Vibhushan award in protest against the betrayal of the farmers by the Government of India and against the shocking indifference and contempt with which the government is treating the ongoing peaceful and democratic agitation of the farmers against the three farm Acts,” a SAD statement in Chandigarh said.
Badal’s decision comes amid ongoing talks between farmer organisations and the Centre. On Wednesday, the farmers were frim on their demand for repeal of the three laws and had rejected the Centre’s offers to set up a panel to look the issue.
More routes connecting UP-Delhi closed
Meawhile, as more farmers joined the protests on Delhi’s borders, the police on Thursday closed routes on two national highways connecting Ghaziabad to Delhi. The farmers remained unyielding on their demand for scrapping the new farm laws and stayed put at the national capital's borders with Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The protesting farmers had on Wednesday threatened to block other roads of Delhi if their demands were not met.
“The local police has closed the routes on NH-9 and NH-24 from Ghaziabad to Delhi. On NH-1, both sides of the route have been closed near Shani Mandir,” the Delhi Traffic Police tweeted.
At the Chilla border, one carriageway - from Delhi to Noida - has been opened for traffic. However, the other carriageway - from Noida to Delhi - is still closed.
The Delhi-Haryana border at Jharoda, Jhatikra remained closed for traffic movement. The Badusarai border is open only for two-wheeler traffic.
The police also kept the Haryana-Delhi border at Singhu and Tikri closed for traffic.
Amarinder Singh Meets Shah
Earlier in the day, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the protesting farmers to find an early resolution to the impasse over the new farm laws, saying the agitation was affecting Punjab's economy and the nation's security. He, however, did not specify what he meant by ‘national security’ concerns.
Singh after meeting Shah at his residence here said a common ground must be found soon and the two sides should not take rigid positions on the matter.
"I came to meet the Home Minister to reiterate our position and to make a request to him and the farmers to resolve this soon because this (agitation) affects the economy of my Punjab as well as the security of the nation," the Congress leader told reporters after the meeting.
Rahul for complete repeal of farm laws
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said accepting anything less than a complete repeal of the new farm laws would be "betrayal" with India and the farmers.
His reaction comes in view of the meeting between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to work out a solution to the farmers protest against the Centre's agri-marketing laws.
"Accepting anything less than a complete repeal of the three black agriculture laws would be a betrayal with India and the farmers," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
As part of their 'Delhi Chalo' march, farmers have been staging protests at four busy border points of the national capital - Singhu, Noida, Ghazipur and Tikri - to press their demands for repealing the agri-marketing laws.
Withdraw Farm Bills: Mamata
In Kolkata, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday threatened to launch a country-wide agitation if the "anti-farmer" new farm laws were not withdrawn.
The Trinamool Congress supremo lashed out at the BJP-led government at the Centre over the issue in a series of tweets.
"I am very much concerned about the farmers, their lives and livelihood. GOI must withdraw the anti-farmer bills. If they do not do so immediately, we will agitate throughout the state and the country. From the very start, we have been strongly opposing these anti-farmer bills," she tweeted.
(Inputs from PTI)