Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is currently the Leader of Opposition in Haryana Assembly, has asked the Central government to “either amend the new agriculture-related bill making it mandatory for traders and buyers to buy farm produce at minimum support price(MSP) or bring a new bill stating that violation of MSP in buying of agricultural produce will amount to a criminal offence and will be dealt with accordingly”.
Speaking to India Tomorrow over farm-related bills that has agitated farmers all over the country, particularly in Haryana and Punjab, granaries of the nation, Hooda said that since none of the three bills passed by both House of Parliament mentioned the word MSP, indicated that buyers could procure agriculture produce at a price different from MSP. Though the Centre says that all purchases of farm produce would be at MSP only, it could still be violated because there is no reference to MSP anywhere in any of the three bills.
“To ensure that farmers don’t suffer, we demand that the government brings an amendment in the existing bills passed in Lok Sabha and also cleared in the Rajya Sabha, stating that farm produce will be purchased at MSP only and it will be a criminal offence if any one buys the agriculture produce from farmers below MSP price”, said Hooda.
Justifying the demand of the farmers, he said that the government should not be adamant and make it a prestige issue because the issue raised by farmers were quite genuine and pertained to their very existence. He said that the bills in the present form would only benefit the big businesses and corporates who were being allowed in agriculture sector by bringing in new laws and amending the essential commodities act and diluting the hoarding laws.
Responding to a question over sale prices under contract farming, he said MSP regime should be made mandatory in case of contract farming so that farmers were not subjected to any kind of exploitation by big businesses.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Kisan Union and other farm organisations organized road blockade in Haryana and Punjab on Sunday in protest against the agriculture-related bills. Haryana BKU president Ratan Singh Mall said that farmers at four different places at Hisar, Sirsa, Fatehabad and Loharu were sitting on dharna for the last three days demanding compensation for the loss of cotton crop due to failure of rains. He said that though the farmers had lost their crops, the local revenue department officials had entered into ‘girdawari’ (survey of crops) on their own stating that there were no loss of crops and hence, farmers would not get any compensation from the state government. “This is cheating with the farmers”, Mall told India Tomorrow over phone from outside the residence of Haryana Agriculture Minister J P Dalal where BKU activists were sitting on dharna for the last three days.
He said that the administration officials should visit the agricultural fields and prepare ‘girdawari’ or conduct survey of the crops in presence of the farmer, village sarpanch, local ‘patwari’ and at least one official from the district agriculture department to assess the loss of crops and submit it to the government for payment of compensation. But the government did not follow this established procedure.
Gurnam Singh, president of BKU(Chaduni), said that thefarmers were agitated because the new laws neither give MSP guarantee nor the payment of farmers. “We want the government to give the farmers guarantee on MSP purchase of the farm produce and it should be added in the new laws”, he stated.
He said that farm organisations from Haryana were contacting their counterparts in other states to launch a nationwide agitation to force the government to make amendment in the law to protect farmers from exploitation.