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Farm laws: With Prez refusing appointment, Punjab CM to lead sit-in at Rajghat

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Chandigarh:  Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will lead a relay ‘dharna’ (sit-in) of Congress MLAs at Delhi’s Rajghat on Wednesday following President Ram Nath Kovind’s refusal to meet a delegation led by him over the Centre’s farm laws.

The Chief Minister’s Office had on October 21 sought an appointment for Singh and his delegation with the President on November 04 to urge him to grant his assent to Punjab’s farm bills passed last month by the state assembly in a bid to negate the Centre’s three new agricultural laws.

But, the state government on Tuesday said the Rashtrapati Bhavan declined the Chief Minister request for an appointment with the President.

The CM on Tuesday said the protest in Delhi will also highlight the power crisis and scarcity of essential supplies in the state due to the suspension of goods trains by the Centre.

The Railways has stopped running trains to Punjab, saying the farmers protesting against the farm laws are still blocking some tracks. But the state government insists that they have eased the blockade and are allowing goods trains to run.

Several thermal power plants too have closed down in the state because of the lack of coal, the Punjab government said.

The CM said since section 144 of the CrPC — which prohibits assembly of people — is in force in the national capital, MLAs will go from Delhi’s Punjab Bhawan to Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘samadhi’ in groups of four to hold a relay protest.

Singh will lead the first batch at 10.30 am.

Apart from the MLAs from the ruling Congress, Singh has also urged Punjab legislators from other parties to participate.

Punjab assembly last month had passed three Bills to negate the Centre’s three farm laws and had also passed an all-party resolution to seek an appointment with the President on November 4 or any other suitable date to request for his assent to the state’s farm laws.

The Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), accordingly on October 21, had sent a letter to the Rashtrapati Bhavan seeking a meeting and followed it up with a reminder on October 29.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan, however, on Monday declined to grant the appointment to the chief minister and his delegation pointing out that the state farm Bills were still pending with the Punjab Governor for his consideration.

Following the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s rejection to the request, the CMO sent another letter on Monday itself stating that the chief minister and other MLAs needed to meet the President to draw his attention towards the situation in the state.

The President’s Office, however, rejected the fresh request too saying it “cannot be accepted at this juncture for reasons cited earlier”.

The CM on Tuesday said as far as the state amendment Bills, introduced under Article 254 (ii) were concerned, the Governor’s role, as per the Constitution, was limited to forwarding the same to the President.

In any case, as the letter from his office had made it clear, that was not the only issue on which the state needed the President’s intervention, he added.

The CM also took serious note of the refusal of two central ministers to meet Congress MPs from Punjab to discuss grave issues of importance to the state.

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