The Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday gave one week to the Haryana government to file a report and also slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 for non-compliance of its order on a public interest litigation (PIL).
The division bench of justices SK Mittal and Deepak Sibal came down heavily on the state government and asked as to what action it took on its October 2014 order in which the state was to take remedial measures on the complaints of bajra (millet) growers.
In October last year, the HC had directed Haryana to take immediate steps to look into their problems following submissions from the petitioner’s counsel, JS Toor, that farmers were not getting the minimum support price (MSP) of the produce in mandis of the state. The government on Thursday did not have a satisfactory reply to the court queries on the same and submitted that it had written a letter on the issue to the central government. A miffed HC gave one week to the government to file a report on compliance orders and imposed a cost of Rs 50,000.
The HC was hearing a PIL in which the petitioner alleged that government agencies were not procuring agricultural produce from the farmers on MSP due to which they were incurring huge losses. It has alleged that over 20 crops were covered under MSP system but only a few crops were procured by the government agencies, which resulting in huge losses to farmers. The petitioner has also sought directions for compensation of farmers for the losses incurred.
During the hearing, the HC was informed that in Punjab a total of 18 lakh quintals of maize produce was recorded in the state in 2014 and its minimum procuring price ranged between Rs 600 and Rs 13,00. The petitioner’s counsel said that the MSP of maize declared by the government was Rs 13,00, which meant that farmers suffered hundreds of crore rupees loss as government agencies did not procure the agricultural produce on MSP.
Meanwhile the central government counsel, OS Batalvi told the court that courts could not interfere in the fixing of price of the crops and cited Supreme Court judgments in this regard and also submitted that procurement was responsibility of the state. It also submitted that the price was fixed by a technical body set up by the government of India: commission for agriculture costs and prices.