During the resumed hearing of a petition seeking the implementation of the minimum support price (MSP) policy for agricultural produce, the Punjab and Haryana high court directed Punjab and Haryana to submit details on the rates at which the crops were being purchased by the nodal agencies of the two states, especially the purchase of maize by the Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation.
The division bench, comprising acting chief justice Ashutosh Mohunta and justice Anupinder Singh Grewal, issued these directions on a petition filed by Gurnam Singh and other members of the Bhartiya Kisan Union of Haryana, before adjourning the petition to October 30. The bench had directed the states to file detailed affidavits after the petitioner alleged irregularities in procurement and accused the state governments of misleading the court.
The bench was informed that paddy procurement started on Wednesday (October 1) in Punjab. The petitioner, while placing on record the notification, informed the court that the Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation circulated the plan for the purchase of maize on September 30, a day before the case was listed in the court.
“The farmers are being approached by private traders who are buying the crops at a lesser price and then selling these to the nodal agencies at the MSP, hence gaining profits and leaving the farmers in loss,” said the counsel for the petitioner, JS Toor, who alleged that for the past three years, maize was being procured at much lesser rate.
He submitted, “The nodal agencies are supposed to be present at the shops in anticipation of the arrival of the commodities. The gross disregard is apparent from the letter circulated on June 17 by the director general, food and supplies, Haryana, which reads that the government of Haryana has decided to purchase the commodity (in this case sunflower seed) in the period between June 15 and July 15. The arrival of the commodity started on June 1.”
The petitioner union alleged that the MSP had been fixed much below the actual cost of production and even this was not being provided to farmers.
The petitioner had submitted, “These are the reasons that farmers are being pushed to a state of affairs where they have no option but to commit suicide.”
It was submitted that last year, the MSP for sunflower was Rs 3,700 per quintal, but it was purchased for Rs 2,600-2,900. It was added that around 48,000 quintals of sunflower arrived at the Shahbad market for sale and the loss was calculated at an average of Rs 500 per quintal to farmers, which came out to be more than Rs 4 crore. The production of maize in Punjab last year was 16 lakh tonnes and the MSP was Rs 1,600 per quintal, but the crop was sold at Rs 500-800 per quintal and the loss to farmers came out to be thousands of crores. The petitioner union also sought directions that the losses caused to farmers should be fully compensated.