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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Row over DBT, new procurement norms: Farmers open front against FCI with dharnas across Punjab, Haryana

The massive 'Mandi Bachao Mahasammelan' organised Monday at the New Grain Mandi of Moga’s Baghapurana saw slogans of 'Arhtiya, Kisan, Mazdoor, Muneem Ekta Zindabad' being raised by protesters.

Written by Raakhi Jagga , Sukhbir Siwach , Divya Goyal | Chandigarh, Ludhiana |
Updated: April 6, 2021 12:35:22 am
Row Over DBT, New procurement norms: Farmers open front against FCI with dharnas across Punjab, HaryanaMandi Bachao, Kisan Bachao, Punjab Bachao protest organised by the Federation of Ahritiya Association in Moga. (Express Photo: Gurmeet Singh)

Total 108 dharnas were organised by different farmer unions across Punjab against FCI’s new crop procurement norms. Haryana too saw farmers protesting in front of FCI offices at several places in the state Monday.

Punjab, meanwhile, witnessed farmers, arhtiyas and farm labourers coming together on a single platform — ‘Mandi Bachao Mahasammelan’ — in Moga to assert that protest against FCI and the Union government will continue till the decision on Direct Benefit Transfer of procurement dues is not rolled back. Under the DBT system, arhtiyas will no longer be part of the payment chain linking government and farmers.

Massive protest rally in Moga

The massive ‘Mandi Bachao Mahasammelan’ organised Monday at the New Grain Mandi of Moga’s Baghapurana saw slogans of ‘Arhtiya, Kisan, Mazdoor, Muneem Ekta Zindabad’ being raised by protesters.

Those who attended the rally included Vijay Kalra, president, Federation of Arhtiya Association (Punjab), Balbir Singh Rajewal, president, BKU (Rajewal), Gurnam Singh Chaduni, president, BKU Haryana. Others present included Nirbhay Singh Dhudike, president, Kirti Kisan Union (Punjab), Satnam Singh Ajnala, president, Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, S R Ladhar, a retired IAS officer, Lakhminder Singh Jakhar, former DIG (Prisons), who had resigned from Punjab Police in support of farmers.

Row Over DBT, New procurement norms: Farmers open front against FCI with dharnas across Punjab, Haryana Farmer leaders and ahrtiya association leaders at the Mandi Bachao, Kisan Bachao, Punjab Bachao event organised by the Federation of Ahritiya Association, in Moga. (Express photo: Gurmeet Singh)

Addressing protesters, Vijay Kalra said that the Union government must get a clear message that commission agents (arhtiyas), farmers, mandi labourers and other workers in the mandi system were standing united in this fight.

“Due to the cheap policies of the central government led by PM Narendra Modi, every effort is being made to discourage and chuck out arhtiyas from the mandi system which has been going on for years. The recent decision to make direct online payment to farmers by the FCI is clear proof of that,” said Kalra, adding that the government must understand that the relationship between the farmers and arhtiyas in Punjab is such that they can never be separated.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, president, BKU (Rajewal), said that when farmers have to sell their crop at the same rate, then what is the logic behind direct online payment decision of the FCI. He also said that farmers of Punjab will not rest and their protest will continue till the three farm laws were not rolled back by the centre.

BKU (Haryana) leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni said that the farmers won’t allow the country’s socialist system to go into the hands of corporates and soon they will be marching towards Parliament in Delhi to register their protest in a stronger way.

“Soon the dates to march towards the Parliament will also be decided,” said Chaduni.

Fight against new procurement norms

While BKU (Ugrahan) organised dharnas at 34 places in 16 Punjab districts Monday, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee (KMSC) organised dharnas at 12 places in 12 districts of the state. In additon to this, dharnas were organised at 62 more places in Punjab by 32 farmer unions of Punjab.

BKU (Ugrahan) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan said that on the call of Samyukta Kisan Morcha, 34 FCI offices were gheraoed in 15 districts of Punjab to protest against decision of seeking land records of farmers for the direct online payment of MSP to farmers.

He said: “FCI has stated that they will purchase wheat crop with not more than 12 per cent moisture which was earlier 14 per cent. In addition to this, they are asking for farad of agriculture land of farmer and hence will be purchasing crop on the basis of land owned by a farmer…..So where will the farmer who does contract farming go?”

Janak Singh Bhutaal, another BKU (Ugrahan) leader, said, “Mostly, small farmers take land on contract so as to do farming and earn money …if direct transfer of money will happen, it will happen in the account of owner of the land. So where will the person who did farming on contract go? This is to spoil relationships of owner and the farmer who does farming on contract.”

Kokrikalan, however, added, “We have no issues if direct payment is given to us. This is our long pending demand. However, we want this payment to be given in cash rather than transferring it in bank as people get the money deposited in banks cashed because of signed cheques of farmers already with them.”

Dharnas were held in all districts of Punjab and large gatherings could be seen in Sangrur, Baghapurana, Bathinda, Amritsar, Ferozepur, Ludhiana and many other places.

“New norms were introduced by NDA government to target the protesting farmers of Punjab,” said Saudagar Singh Ghudani, Ludhiana president of BKU (Ugrahan).

Sarwan Singh Pandher, general secretary of KMSC, said, “We organised dharnas at 12 places in 12 districts. Union government’s bid is to wind up FCI, but we are protesting to save FCI and our rights. So, dharnas were outside FCI offices.”

Women were seen in large numbers at the dharnas held in Malwa, while minor children were also at Barnala dharna spot.

Protests across Haryana

Haryana farmers too staged protests in front of offices of Food Corporation of India (FCI) at several places in the state Monday apart from holding marches in the towns.

According to a local farmer leader Raju Mann, farmers had started gathering in the office complex of FCI in Bhiwani at 10 am Monday.

“First of all, the farmers observed two-minute silence to express condolence for over 20 jawans who got martyrdom in the attack by naxals in Chhattisgarh. Then, the farmers sat on a dharna which continued till 3 pm,” said Mann.

In Rohtak, farmers reached the office of FCI after staging a protest march in the town.

“We staged a protest against attempts to finish the FCI aiming to dismantle the public distribution system (PDS),” said Sumit Kumar, Rohtak district secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha.

Farmers staged protests in front of FCI offices on the call of Samyukta Kisan Morcha. The morcha in a statement said, “The central government is continuously reducing the budget of FCI. Also, FCI’s procurement centres have been reduced. We demand an adequate budget for FCI and it should be fully utilized. The source of food for millions of people is the PDS service through FCI. Storage should be continued by the government and run smoothly so that people do not have to suffer from hunger.”

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