Farmers blocked traffic on the Amritsar-Delhi national highway on Saturday and squatted on the road for nearly an hour to protest against alleged non-procurement of their paddy and low price being offered.
Former Punjab minister Joginder Singh Mann addressed the farmers at the Sugar Mill Crossing on the highway. "Even though paddy procurement started about two weeks ago, procurement agencies are either not procuring the crop or forcing farmers to sell paddy for extremely lower rate," he said, accusing the state government of being "anti-farmer".
The farmers rued that their paddy had not been procured for the past 11 days. "Procurement officials are pestering us under one pretext or the other, and suggesting that we sell the crop for `700 per quintal against the government-approved minimum rate of `1,345. They say the grain is either discoloured or has excess moisture," said a protester.
Farmers stated that the quality of the grain had been spoiled because of the delay in procurement at the grain markets. The protest was called off after Phagwara superintendent of police Gursevak Singh Brar assured the farmers of a solution. When contacted, additional deputy commissioner-cum-administrators of the market committee of Phagwara, SK Singla, on Sunday denied that paddy was not being procured.
"Only the paddy with excess discolouration or moisture, which does not fulfil the specifications, is not being procured," he said.
He also refuted the charge that the officials concerned had forced farmers to sell the paddy for below the minimum support price.