Several former sportspersons from Punjab including Padma Shri and Arjuna awardees left for Delhi on Saturday to return their awards in support of the farmers’ protest against the Centre’s three agriculture reform laws.
They will join the farmers camping at the national capital’s Singhu border on Saturday before returning their awards to the president the next day.
Farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been camping at five Delhi gateways for the past nine days to press their demand for a repeal of the recently enacted farm laws.
“We have left for Delhi today and will join the farmers’ protest,” said former wrestler Kartar Singh, who is a Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee.
“Many former players like Sajjan Singh Cheema who could not join us because of health or other issues have given their sports awards to us,” he said.
The sportspersons said they have sought time from President Ram Nath Kovind to return the awards.
“If are not allotted a time to meet the president, we will place our awards outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Sunday,” said former hockey player Rajbir Kaur.
Other former sportspersons who are headed to the national capital are Dhyan Chand awardee hockey Olympian Gurmail Singh, Arjuna awardee Kabaddi player Hardeep Singh, and Arjuna awardee weightlifter Tara Singh.
On Friday, former national boxing coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu, during whose tenure India won its maiden Olympic medal in the sport, Padma Shri boxer Kaur Singh and Arjuna awardee boxer Jaipal Singh had announced that they would return their awards.
Enacted in September, the three farm laws are anticipated to bring “reforms” in the agriculture sector by removing middlemen and allowing farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
Farmers worry these laws will eliminate the safety net of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and do away with mandis that ensure earning. But the government says the MSP system will continue and the new laws will give farmers more options to sell their crop.
The government is holding talks with farmers, who have called for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ on December 8 and threatened to occupy toll plazas.
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