The second Lalkar rally of farmer organisations and farm labour groups asked chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to put an end to his government’s “unholy nexus” with traders (arhtiyas) and rice mill owners, who had been looting farmers by not paying them the minimum support price (MSP) for the agricultural produce.
“There is no direct purchase of paddy or wheat from farmers by government food agencies. Traders buy the produce from farmers by paying below the MSP fixed by the government, and in turn sell it to the agencies at the MSP, thus making a profit and causing losses to farmers,” claimed Border Area Kisan Sangharsh Committee president Rattan Singh Randhawa, while addressing a rally at the Company Bagh here on Friday.
He, along with other farmer leaders, demanded that farmers who had sold their paddy this season at below the MSP should be compensated by the government. The level of moisture content in foodgrains is often cited as the reason for not giving the farmer the due amount fixed by the government, farmer leaders said, while pointing out that the same foodgrain is later purchased by food agencies at the rate fixed by the government.
‘Fix MSP of basmati’
The protesting farmers demanded that the Centre have an MSP for basmati in order to stop farmers from being looted by traders. The government-trader-rice miller nexus led to a number of basmati-growers suffering huge losses as they were forced to sell their produce at low rates that barely covered their input costs, they added.
“Traders and rice mill owners have been making huge profits at the cost of basmati-growers. The basmati the traders purchased for Rs 1,500 per quintal this season was sold at double the price to rice millers later,” Kisan Sangharsh Committee president Satnam Singh Pannu claimed, while pointing to exploitation of farmers at the hands of traders.
The Lalkar rally saw a participation by eight farmer organisations and four labour groups. A large number of women also participated.
Referring to the women who were sitting in the front, Jamhuri Kisan Sabha chief Satnam Singh Ajnala said they belonged to those families who had received notices recently from the government, asking them to vacate the land they had been tilling since the early sixties. The government was laying claim to this land which these families reclaimed from the basin of the Ravi after the river kept changing its course.
Ajnala said around 43,000 families had received the eviction notices. In one voice, the farmers demanded that the government take back these notices or an agitation would be launched in the affected areas.
The rally was held to protest against the alleged indifferent attitude of the state and central governments to the problems of farmers. Among the demands highlighted was compensation for those whose cotton crop was destroyed due to the whitefly attack and release of all outstanding payments of farmers by sugar mills that had purchased their sugarcane.
Call to reach Badal village
The farmers said if their demands were not met, they would reach Badal village and hold their protest there. The three-day protest at the ancestral village of the chief minister would begin on January 6.