Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar Sunday said he would resign from politics if the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farmers was abolished. He was speaking at a farmers’ rally in Narnaul district on the ongoing issue between Punjab and Haryana over the SYL canal.
“MSP will always be there. If someone tries to abolish it, Manohar Lal Khattar will leave politics. MSP will not end… MSP was there in the past, it is present now, and it will remain in the future as well,” Khattar said, in an attempt to reassure farmers.
He linked the SYL canal issue with the ongoing farmers’ agitation in Delhi. “We have been pleading with the central government and the Supreme Court, and soon there would be a decision on the SYL canal… The Congress keeps creating fears that if the SYL canal is built, there will be a negative effect in Punjab… but this won’t last long… Punjab’s arbitrary behaviour won’t last long.
“There is a process in democracy. But to create pressure, you have gathered over 57,000 people and stopped the right of way. There is no place for this in democracy… If the government bends to it, the country will go in the wrong direction,” Khattar added.
Ahead of the Jal Adhikar rally, thousands of plastic chairs were set up, banners explaining the clauses of the three farm laws were placed in corners and a band performed folk songs as farmers waited for Khattar to arrive.
While the rally was held to seek farmers’ support for a five-decade dispute between Punjab and Haryana over their share of the surplus Ravi and Beas waters, the farm laws were on everyone’s minds.
Ranbeer Singh, a farmer who had come from Pota village in Mahendragarh district. said, “MSP and Kisan Mandi are very important for us… though we think Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not do anything bad for us… The government should also ensure that private players are not given a free hand as they have a habit of exploiting people in the long run.”
Like Singh, several other farmers in Mahendragarh and the districts nearby grow wheat, millet, mustard and sell it the nearest mandi. While they are hopeful that MSP and APMC will stay, they have apprehensions regarding private players, who might try to influence the market.
Rishi Raj from Narnaul said since he farms on a small 1 acre plot of land, he wants MSP and mandis to continue functioning rather than private ones which would mediate and “try to influence the rates in future”.
For farmers in the area who participated in the rally, though, the issue of water shortage and dependence on rain water is more worrisome than the farm laws — a reason they gave for not taking part in protests at Delhi’s borders.
Krishna Kumar from Hudina said, “Some work has been done on raising the water level and bringing canal water, but a large number of farmers are still dependent upon the rain water for their crops.”
“The reason why people from this part of Haryana have not joined protest in large numbers, like other parts, is because for us MSP and mandi comes after the issue of water. The first issue is water, so we are at least able to harvest,” he said.
As Khattar arrived, two people in the crowd waved black flags, and were quickly taken away by the cops. “I knew some people will come (to protest),” the Haryana CM said.
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