Farmers from the border villages of the Ramdass area on Wednesday staged a protest against the non-lifting of paddy at the grain market in Awan village, and the Congress leaders seized the opportunity to condemn the state government.
Because the government procurement agencies have failed to buy even a grain of paddy over the past few days from Awan, the farmers are left with no option but to raise their voice. Many of them have not gone home for the past four days, as they have to guard their produce that they had off-loaded in the markets in the hope that it would be purchased in a day or two.
The procurement agencies have raised the question of moisture-content standard and put the blame for the delay on the farmers. The official permitted moisture content is 17%. The protesting farmers said whatever paddy had been sold at Awan, it had been bought by the ‘arhtiyas’ (commission agents) for a price far below the government-fixed minimum support price (MSP) of `1,345 per quintal.
Sensing the mood of the farmers, Congress leaders led by Punjab Congress vice-president OP Soni and Amritsar (rural) district party president Harpartap Singh Ajnala joined the farmers in their sit-in protest.
Ajnala claimed that there had been no direct purchase of paddy anywhere in the Ajnala subdivision and ‘arhtiyas’ were further selling the crop to the procurement agencies. “Whatever paddy was purchased by the commission agents, it was for less than the MSP, and the government is responsible,” he said.
Ajnala demanded that the moisture limit be raised to 22%, as it had happened in certain southern states where humidity was high. “Punjab also had a recent spell of rain,” he added.