March 19, 2015 1:13:35 pm
Political parties cutting across party lines on Thursday demanded immediate financial assistance and relief including loan waiver for farmers in North and Western India whose crops have been hit by unseasonal rain and hailstorm.
Opposition Congress, BSP, JD-U and CPI(M) demanded that the Centre should immediately announce financial assistance, assess the extent of damage to crops and wave interest on loans of distressed farmers.
With several members in Rajya Sabha giving notice under rule 267 for suspension of business to take up loss of crop due to unseasonal rains and hailstorm, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said it has been decided to take up discussion and the government replying to it.
Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress) said standing crops in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra have been destroyed in the unseasonal rains and hailstorm.
He demanded fair assessment of the crop loss and corruption-free and fair distribution of compensation.
Besides, a financial package for farmers needs to be announced at the earliest, he said.
K C Tyagi (JD-U) said though crops worth Rs 22,000 crore has been lost in the natural fury, the insurance companies were assessing crop loss at no more than Rs 1,000 crore.
During the previous UPA regime, there was a Group of Ministers for quickly assessing the loss and announcing relief but under the present dispensation all such panels have been dissolved, he said, demanding formation of a ministerial grouping, preferably under Finance Minister, for quick assessment of loss.
Stating that all of the standing crop in some states have been destroyed, he said the government should announce a moratorium on loan repayments by farmers.
Mayawati (BSP) said besides the crop loss because of unseasonal rains and hailstorm, farmers are faced with the other problem of amendments planned to “dilute” the provisions of the 2013 Land Acquisition Act.
“The amendment is not in the interest of farmers. BSP is against this amendment, the entire Opposition is against it,” she said, demanding that the amendment, which has been passed by the Lok Sabha and awaiting nod from the Upper House, should be withdrawn.
She said three-fourths of standing crop of farmers has been destroyed and they were being driven to suicide. An all-party committee, Mayawati said, should be formed to assess the damage and provide compensation to farmers after consulting the Chief Ministers.
Unseasonal rains and hailstorm would result in rise in prices of essential commodities, he said and sought steps by the government to check inflation.
Observing that rain and hailstorm has affected most states in northern and western India, Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said farmers were also not getting fair price for their crops.
He reminded the BJP of its poll promise of giving farmers a rate equivalent to one-and-half times of the actual cost of production and said so far, seven farmers have either died of heart attack or suicide in the aftermath of the crop losses.
The Uttar Pradesh government has announced Rs 200 crore relief to farmers but the central government must intervene to help tide over the crisis, he said.
Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had claimed he is lucky for the country as international oil prices slumped in second half of 2014. But now the country was facing an agrarian crisis.
On the one hand, sugar mills were running an outstanding of Rs 17,000 crore in payments to farmers, he said, adding 10 potato growers in West Bengal have committed suicide so far because of crop failure.
Farmers in Nasik, the biggest onion market, were getting only Rs 2.50 per kg for the best quality onions against Rs 11 they got previously.
He asked the government about the BJP poll promise of giving one-and-half-times of cost as minimum support price for crops and demanded emergency measures including relief and loan waiver to the distressed farmers.
Agriculture’s share in the GDP has fallen to just 13 per cent, he added.
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