The return of ‘Award Wapsi’: As farmers protest continue, former Punjab sportspersons want to return awards

Arjuna and Padma award winners from Punjab have now expressed their desire to return their awards to show solidarity with the protesting farmers. Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee wrestler Kartar Singh, Arjuna awardee basketball player Sajjan Singh Cheema and Arjuna awardee hockey player Rajbir Kaur are amongst those who want to return their awards. They claim they will go to Rashtrapati Bhavan on 5th December and put their awards outside.

The sportspersons expressed displeasure over the use of water cannons and teargas on the protestors to stop them from going to Delhi. The agitating farmers have lodged themselves near the entry points at Delhi border and have not been allowed to enter. They are carrying four months’ worth of ration and are prepared to continue the protests. The government held talks with them on Tuesday but a resolution has not been reached yet.

One of the speakers at the press conference held on Tuesday claimed that as many as 150 awards will be returned from Punjab.

The ‘Award Wapsi’ form of protest

Many award winners in India believe that returning the award they have won from government is a form of protest against the government. It started few years back over alleged ‘rising intolerance’ when pro-Congress ‘liberals’ from various fields like films and literature decided to return their award to the central government led by PM Modi. Since then, the trend has quite picked up.

However, there is no data available on how many have actually returned their awards and prize money after having announced to do the same. Except for Hinduphobic poet Munawwar Rana and writer Kashinath Singh, who, after announcing they will return their Sahitya Akademi awards and prize money, did not stick to their word.

Punjab farmers’ agitation

Punjab farmers are agitating against the central government laws enacted in September this year wherein the government allowed farmers to sell their produce outside of the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee), thereby eliminating middlemen.

The central government has continued the old provision of allowing sale of produce at mandis as per current system. However, the Punjab farmers want that the government should not shut town APMC and mandis. The central government has clarified time and again that these are not shutting down but it is still not clear why farmers are then agitating against something which is already there.

Moreover, the famers also now want a law that guarantees MSP (Minimum Sale Price). The MSP has always been an administrative decision, taking on case to case basis after every seasonal crop. However, the farmers now want a law for it including an MSP for outside the mandis like private players. That would be against the concept of free market.

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