Farm labourers given drugs to work longer, Centre tells Punjab; bid to malign image, says farmer leader

In a letter that could trigger a new flashpoint in its ongoing five-month-long face-off with protesting farmers from Punjab, the Centre has asked the state government to take action on the findings of a probe by the BSF that migrant bonded labourers from Bihar and UP were being employed in the state’s farms and administered drugs to extract long hours of work.

In the letter sent on March 17 to the Punjab Chief Secretary and DGP, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that in 2019-20, the BSF apprehended 58 such labourers from the border districts of Punjab.

The letter drew sharp reactions from farm leaders protesting against the Centre’s new agriculture laws. Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of BKU Dakaunda and member of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), accused the Centre of trying to “malign the image of farmers”.

A senior Punjab Police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the contents of the letter but described the findings as “far-fetched”.

Former NDA ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), said the letter was based on a “ridiculous assumption aimed purely at defaming farmers of the state”.

Referring to the 58 people “apprehended” by the BSF “from the border areas of Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ferozepur and Abohar”, the Centre’s letter states: “During the course of questioning, it emerged that most of them were either mentally challenged or were in a feeble state of mind and have been…

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