The Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday gave one month’s time to the central government, Punjab and Haryana to hold a meeting and take a decision on the procurement of various crops covered under the minimum support price (MSP) scheme.
The direction came following submissions of assistant solicitor general, government of India, Chetan Mittal, who informed the high court that Punjab and Haryana had been indulging in a “letter-writing” exercise and did not show up whenever they were called for a meeting to discuss the issue. He submitted that the Centre was ready to treat their cases as ‘special’, even as guidelines were there for procurement of various food crops under the MSP. “But for that, the meetings are to be held and states will have to participate in those meetings. They are not approaching us (central government),” he submitted.
Following the submissions, the HC directed the agricultural and consumer affairs ministries of the Centre and the governments of Punjab and Haryana to hold a meeting on the issue by the next date of hearing, April 24.
The central government’s submissions were made on a petition wherein it was alleged that government agencies were not procuring agricultural produce from farmers at the MSP, due to which farmers were incurring huge losses. The petitioner’s counsel, JS Toor, had submitted that 65 lakh quintals of maize reached state mandis last year, of which only 31,000 quintals were procured by state agencies under the MSP scheme in Punjab.
The Punjab government had submitted to the court that a proposal was sent by the state government for the procurement of maize, for which it had sought Rs 500 crore as funds, among other demands. But it was yet to be cleared by central government. During the last hearing, on March 3, the HC had come down heavily on the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and observed that the central government’s actions indicate that its stand was “anti-farmer”. The HC had asked the Centre to take a decision within two weeks.