NEW DELHI: Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has slammed the home ministry (MHA) for its letter urging action in the matter of “bonded labourers” being employed on farms in some border villages of the state.
Accusing the MHA of spreading “misinformation,” Singh said it was “yet another conspiracy to defame Punjab’s farmers”, whom the Centre and BJP have been “persistently trying to malign by dubbing them as terrorists, urban naxals and goons” to derail their agitation against the new farm laws.
This comes after the MHA wrote to the Punjab government last month, after being tipped off by forces deployed at the border, about “bonded labourers” being made to work under inhuman conditions on farms in some villages.
“An analysis of the whole episode reveals that highly sensitive information pertaining to national security regarding the arrest of some suspicious persons, apprehended by the Border Security Force (BSF) from close to the volatile Indo-Pak border, has been unscrupulously twisted on baseless conjectures to malign and tarnish the farmer community,” Singh said in a statement.
Amarinder asserted that his government and the state police are competent to safeguard the human rights of the poor and the downtrodden, and action has already been taken.
The MHA came out with a clarification on its letter to the Punjab government, after some media reports seemed to suggest that charges have been framed against farmers for employing bonded labourers.
In a press release, it said that a section of the media erroneously reported that the ministry in its letter levelled ‘grave charges against the farmers of the state.’
Terming such reports ‘highly editorialized opinion,’ the ministry termed the letter ‘a routine communication over law and order issues,’ and denied any motive behind the same.
The letter only states that “human trafficking syndicates” hire such labourers and they are “exploited, paid poorly and meted out inhuman treatment,” the MHA said.
It called the letter “a simple observation about a socio-economic problem emerging from four sensitive border districts of Punjab over a period of two years, which has been brought to the attention of this Ministry by the concerned CAPF.”
(With inputs from agencies)