Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday hit out at the Central government for spreading “misinformation” about the state’s farmers with its “grave and incorrect allegations” of bonded labourers working in the fields.
Terming it yet “another conspiracy” to defame Punjab’s farmers whom the Central government and the ruling BJP have been “persistently trying to malign by dubbing them terrorists, urban naxals, goons, etc., in a bid to derail their agitation against the farm laws”, he said that the Union Home Ministry’s March 17 letter in this regard was a “bundle of lies”, aimed at “undermining” the farmers’ protest and “denigrating” the state’s Congress government.
“A careful analysis of the whole episode reveals that highly sensitive information pertaining to national security regarding the arrest of some suspicious persons, apprehended by the BSF from close to the volatile Indo-Pak border, has been unscrupulously twisted on baseless conjectures to malign and tarnish the farmer community,” he claimed.
This “reality has been further substantiated by the fact that a selective leakage of the contents of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) letter to some leading newspapers and media houses has been done without waiting for an appropriate response from the state government”, he added.
Asserting that his government and Punjab Police are totally competent and committed to safeguard the human rights of the poor and the downtrodden, Amarinder Singh said suitable action has already been initiated in each case and most of the persons are residing with their families.
“If anything comes to notice at any stage, suitable legal action will be initiated against the culprits,” he added.
Amarinder Singh was reacting to the Home Minister’s letter claiming that the Border Security Force (BSF) had apprehended 58 Indian nationals in 2019 and 2020 from border areas of Punjab, and the detainees had purportedly revealed that they were working with state’s farmers as bonded labourers.
“It has been further informed that illegal human trafficking syndicates exploit these gullible labourers and Punjabi farmers hook them to drugs to make them work for long hours in their fields,” the MHA had said in the letter.
Rejecting the letter as totally “unwarranted and factually incorrect”, the Chief Minister said neither the data nor the said reports submitted by the BSF authorities were in tune with the content of the letter.
“The MHA letter talks of Abohar also while the fact is that there is no case of Abohar or Fazilka districts,” he pointed out, adding that “none of the conclusions of the Centre were borne out by facts”.
Further, it was not the job of the BSF to investigate such matters, and they were only responsible for detaining any person found to be roaming along the border in suspicious circumstances, and handing them over to the local police, he added.
“Before shooting out such a letter and making it public through the media, the MHA should have checked the facts and verified the information from the state government instead of making false accusations against farmers, and charging them with indulging in bonded labour and converting the labourers into drug addicts,” he added.
“All the 58 cases alleged by the Centre have been investigated thoroughly and nothing of this kind has been found,” said Amarinder Singh.
Giving details, he said of the 58 detainees, four belong to different areas of Punjab and were found roaming near the Indo-Pak border by the BSF, while three were found to be mentally disabled.
“Nothing on record suggests that these persons were forcibly infused drugs to keep them working for long hours, and moreover, it is incorrect to conclude that the intellectual disability of these person is drug induced,” said Amarinder Singh.