The Centre's proposed move of cutting fertiliser subsidy by 15% from the next financial year has met opposition from deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
On Sunday, Sukhbir, who is also president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), issued a statement here to condemn the proposal and questioned the silence of the state Congress on the matter. Addressing a public meeting at Chotian Kalan, Sukhbir said the SAD would not allow further cut in fertiliser subsidy until the minimum support price (MSP) of all agricultural produce was linked with the price index as the Swaminathan Commission had recommended.
"Worldover, the agriculture sector is subsidised highly by the governments; and in India, the government is bent upon squeezing even the last drop of the peasantry's blood with series of anti-farmer measures," said Sukhbir. "First they decontrolled the fertiliser sector by introducing the nutrient-based formula that doubled the price of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) within six months and raised the price of urea, then they decontrolled the price of diesel, and now they are going to cut fertiliser subsidy by 15%, which will affect the dwindling economy of the agriculture sector."
Demanding a minimum of Rs. 2,200 a quintal as the MSP for wheat in view of the rising input cost for farmers, Sukhbir said that it was unfair that on the one hand, the union government had taken a decision that would raise the price of agricultural inputs by 100% and on other hand, ordered a meagre increase in the MSP. "It is to push farmers deeper into the debt trap," he said.
The price of DAP fertiliser had risen from Rs. 437 a bag in the last season to 1,237 a bag this season because of the withdrawal of subsidy, said the deputy CM. Moga will be the scene of assembly byelection later this month. Sukhbir conmened the Centre for increasing the prices of cooking gas and urea and other fertilisers; and trying to bring foreign direct investment (FDI) in the multi-brand retail sector. "By squeezing the middle-class income, no government can ever survive," he said. "The policies of the union government have brought growth rate down to 5%, while inflation has crossed the double-digit figure."
The SAD chief addressed public meetings at Darapur, Chotian Khurd and Budh Singh Wala in favour of party candidate Joginder Pal Jain. Former director general of police PS Gill, Prem Singh Chandumajra, Joginder Pal Jain and Ranwinder Singh Pappu Ramoowala also addressed the crowds.