A DAY ahead of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha session, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president and Ferozepur MP Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday said the Centre had categorically assured farmers that “the three ordinances about marketing of agriculture produce will have no bearing on the existing policy of procurement of farmers’ crops by government agencies at Minimum Support Price (MSP)”.
Referring to a letter to him from Union Minister of Agriculture, Farmers’ Welfare and Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday (August 26), Sukhbir said the Centre had clarified that “there is no change in the present policy of purchase of agriculture produce through MSP through state agencies.”
Sukhbir said the central government had further declared that the “official procurement and MSP will not only continue but will continue to be the priority”.
“Both ordinances promulgated by the Government of India on June 5 are for safeguarding the interests of the farming community,” Tomar wrote, while referring to the Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance 2020 and The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020.
Sukhbir said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured him that these commitments will be reflected in the legislation to turn this ordinance into an Act.”
He added that “the Centre’s assurances have come only after deliberations at the highest level”.
“The communication categorically states that the government and APMC will continue to have regulatory powers within the trade areas and to impose mandi fees and other charges as per the state statues, as is the practice now. (A trade area is defined as any place where the produce is sold and purchased),” said Sukhbir as he addressed a virtual press conference after party’s core committee meeting here Thursday.
“State APMC Act and institutions established under such statutes will continue to operate and are not affected in any way by these reform ordinances,” says the official communication.
“The promulgation of aforementioned ordinances has no bearing on the policy of procurement on MSP which continues to be the priority of the central government,” read the letter by Tomar.
‘Had written to Centre that verbal assurances had not proved enough’
The writtten assurance from Centre, Sukhbir said, came in response to a letter which he had written to it on July 26, in which he had emphasised that “the assurances given verbally in this regard had not proved enough to remove the fears and apprehensions in the minds of the farmers about the continuance of official procurement of farmers’ crops at MSP”.
He said he had insisted that “these assurances must be put in black and white so that the fears about the government backing out of these commitments later could be set at rest for ever.” and that the “farmers wanted these commitments in writing.”
Sukhbir said, “As long as I am alive, I will not let procurement at MSP to discontinue. This is a cause for which I do not and will not hesitate to make any sacrifice.”
Sukhbir said, “SAD wanted to respond to the criticism of its stand on ordinances only after concrete and unequivocal written assurances from the Centre. After these assurances in black and white, the issue of the continuation of procurement of crops at MSP is settled once and for all. Procurement will continue at MSP as before.”
He said certain elements “pretending to be champions of farmers’ had been busy misleading the farmers”, claiming that these ordinances would put an end to the practice of government buying farmers crop at MSP.
“This written commitment by the Government of India is a slap on the faces of these conspirators and their masters in the Congress. These people have been active to become relevant at the cost of the farmers, and they had been engaged in vicious propaganda that procurement and MSP will stop,” said Sukhbir.
Chandumajra writes to CM
Senior SAD leader and former MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said he had written a letter to the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, stating that “the amendments made in the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees Act by the Congress government in 2017 and the ordinances promulgated recently by the central government with regard to agriculture have created fears among farmers with regard to MSP and procurement of wheat, paddy and other crops.”
While pointing out that “certain political parties are playing politics in the issue, Chandumajra urged the CM to “take an all party delegation to meet the central ministers concerned to take a written undertaking from the Union government that the MSP would continue and likewise there would be continuation of the procurement of paddy, wheat and other crops.”