Haryana paddy farmers block Delhi-Chandigarh highway over procurement delay
Haryana BKU leader Gurnam Singh Charuni says farmers want the procurement of parmal rice advanced in view of the early harvest following an increase in the area of early maturing varieties
Thousands of commuters were stranded in traffic jams after farmers blocked National Highway-44 that connects Delhi to Chandigarh at Shahbad in Kurukshetra district on Friday in support of their demand of advancing the procurement of parmal rice variety.
Haryana Bhartiya Kisan Union (Charuni) president Gurnam Singh Charuni had given the call and threatened to block NH 44 near Shahbad if the government did not start paddy procurement from September 22.
Amid rain, hundreds of farmers gathered and decided to go ahead with the protest as talks with the administration failed to yield any result. “We cannot wait more as thousands of farmers are already camping in the mandis (grain markets) with their produce for the past couple of days but the government is not ready to start procurement. We are left with no other option but to block the highway,” Charuni said, addressing the farmers after the meeting.
He said that the blockade will continue until the government announces a schedule for the procurement.
Despite heavy police deployment, the protesting farmers removed barricades with their tractors and blocked the highway.
Kurukshetra superintendent of police Surinder Singh Bhoria said traffic is being diverted from NH 44 to link roads and the police deployment is to deal with any untoward incident.
Farmers, who were also demanding an increase in the per acre yield ceiling from 22 quintals to 35 quintals, continued to block the NH 44 till the filing of this report. The traffic from the highway remained diverted. Braving rains, the commuters travelled from link roads to reach their destinations.
Charuni said that the blockade will continue until they force the government start procurement immediately.
Pankaj Agarwal, commissioner and secretary, food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department said that the government was working to consider the demand of increase in the yield limit but the schedule of the procurement has been fixed by the Centre.
He said that talks to resolve the issue were going on and it will be sorted out soon.
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait has also extended support to the protesting farmers and demanded the government to start procurement operations immediately.
“It is not farmers’ fault if the crop has matured early. Now the Haryana government should start the procurement in all the mandis from September 24,” Tikait said in a video message.
He also warned the government of serious consequences if any police action was taken against the protesting farmers, saying that the entire farming community is united.
High moisture content in yield causing delay
Kurukshetra deputy commissioner Shantanu Sharma said: “A solution to the problem will be found out soon and disclosed to everyone.”
According to government officials privy to the developments, government agencies are to start the procurement from October 1 as per the registration on the Meri-Fasal Mera Bayora portal. Earlier, the government was considering to advance the procurement to September 25, but following the rain it is reluctant to do so in view of the higher moisture content in the crop.
Farmers say most of the parmal varieties take three months to mature and around 30% of the total six lakh hectares under parmal varieties in the state are ready to harvest. Since the parmal rice is procured by government agencies on the minimum support price (MSP) of ₹2,060 per quintal, thousands of quintals of paddy harvested is already lying in the mandis for the past couple of days amid lack of procurement by government agencies.
13 lakh hectares under paddy cultivation
The officials monitoring the procurement said that the government did not announce any plan to advance procurement from October 1. Even the rain has increased the moisture content and it will take at least a week get the crop ready for procurement.
The officials said that there are around 13 lakh hectares under paddy cultivation this year and around 7 lakh hectares are under parmal varieties and remaining 6 lakh hectares are under basmati varieties, which are procured by private traders.