Farmers in Majha ended their protest after an assurance that the Punjab government and New Delhi will try to improve the situation of basmati farmers in the state. The farmers were, reportedly, assured that a high level committee would be set up to advice it on the matter.
One of the major cause of concerns was the export of basmati to Iran which had plunged in 2014-2015 for several reasons, including surplus stocks with Iran and increase in import duty. Farmers’ unions in Punjab had been appealing to the governments to try and find a solution as Iran used to be one of its biggest customers.
Farmers had blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy as a contributing factor towards Iran reducing their procurement from India.
“Farmers feel that Modi spoiled relations with Iran and it has badly hit the prices of basmati,” said Satnam Singh Ajnala, Jamhoori Kisan Sabha leader.
“Punjab government has assured us that it would form a high level committee of agriculture experts. The board will explore methods to ensure that we get fair price for our produce,” said Ajnala.
Basmati is superior to paddy but this year it was sold at a price below paddy prices in Punjab grain markets. At least 80% of the area under cultivation in Mahja is under basmati. Although the Punjab government asked its agencies to procure basmati at the minimum support price of paddy, basmati prices in open market remained down.
SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said that the CM assured the farmers of doing the needful in whatever was under the purview of the state government. He appealed to the farmers not to agitate any further.
“We appeal to the leaders that they should not gherao the ministers. In democracy everybody has their right of protest and we cannot stop them. But Punjab has seen very bad days. People of Punjab want peace. They should have faith in government,” he said.
[With inputs from Anju Agnihotri Chaba in Jalandhar]