A Punjab BJP leader, who is a member of the panel tasked with reaching out to farmers camping at Delhi borders, has said that they should not insist on minimum support price for crops as legal provision as in the longer run that would lead to losses for the farmers from the state.
Harjeet Singh Grewal, 60, said the farmers leading the protest should consider seriously the administrative guarantee being given for procurement of crops on MSP.
“Despite the fact that 23 states grow paddy and10 states produce wheat, government procures 60 per cent of the two grains (for central pool) from Punjab, 30 per cent from Haryana and the remaining 10 per cent from the national capital region (NCR). This is done because of the contribution of Punjab and Haryana in making the country food surplus and their role in Green Revolution,” said Grewal.
The BJP leader said that India produces 280 million tonnes of foodgrains (wheat and paddy), while it needs only 78 million tonnes for the public distribution system (PDS). Hence, if MSP becomes part of a legislation, then the procurement will take place equally from all the states. Only 6 per cent of the total purchase will happen from Punjab. The farm unions repeatedly demanding it (legal sanctity for MSP) must keep this in mind when they meet the government authorities,” said Grewal while talking to the The Indian Express.
The farmers have been protesting at the Delhi borders for 38 days now and have threatened to intensify the stir if their two key demands — the repeal of three new farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP — is not met in the next round of talks scheduled for January 4. At the end of the sixth round of negotiations on Wednesday, the government had agreed to resolve protesting farmers’ concerns over rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning.
Grewal, who had been camping in Delhi since November 28 along with Surjit Kumar Jyani, the chairman of the 8-member BJP panel coordinating with farmers, claimed that wheat from Rajasthan is available in the private market at Rs 2300 per quintal while MP wheat is being sold at Rs 3200 per quintal as against the MSP of Rs 1,925 per quintal. “If the quality is good, you will automatically get good rates. Punjab’s farmers need to understand this. They have the wrong propaganda that their lands will be snatched away. Not even an inch of land has been taken away from any farmer of the country. Diversification of crops should have happened 20 years ago. Punjab’s farmers now feel comfortable in growing only two crops and are also dependent on migrant labourers for same. These laws are meant to take the farmers out of the two-crop cycle and let them grow whatever the country needs,” he said.
Following his repeated statements that amendments can be made in the three agri laws but they can’t be repealed, farmers had announced to socially boycott him at his native village Dhanaula in Barnala. Members of the Grewal community from Ludhiana’s Jodhan village to have announced to boycott him.
Grewal said that he had contested 2017 Assembly polls from Rajpura constituency of Patiala. “I have been living in Rajpura for the past many years. I had not been to Dhanaula for more than 5 years. That village has my farmland where they (protesters) are saying that no one can take it on contract. It is a democratic country and no one can do this,” he said.
Grewal said that he had only passed on the message to the farmers that he got from authorities. “Most of the doubts of farmers have been cleared…Home Minister had even told farm leaders to give in writing whatever changes they want in the three Acts. What else can a government c do? These laws are for the betterment of farmers. A solution should come out as the government is concerned about people sitting out there in the cold,” he added.
He claims that hardly any farmer from 102 villages in Rajpura was taking part in the agitation. “Many farmers are doing vegetable farming in Rajpura. I know many families who grow vegetables on 1.5 acres of land, work hard throughout the year and produce five crops…”
Grewal said he was and Jyani were deputed in Delhi by state party chief Ashwani Sharma as “we had been interacting with farmers for decades”. He said he conducted a survey on farm suicides and submitted it to the head office and “I had indicated to the (party) head office about the rising farmers’ unions’ activities some four years ago. ”
Asked about some leaders labeling the protesting farmers as Naxals and Khalistanis, Grewal said, “One cannot deny that many people with separatist thoughts have also become part of this protest, but one should not generalise it for everyone in the dharna. Majority (of those sitting on protests) is the common farmer who has been misled.”
Grewal said that proposed amendments by the central government have resolved most of the issues and “more amendments can be done, but communists just want to let the issue linger”.
Earlier, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh too disapproved of such remarks saying “such allegations should not be made by anyone” against any farmer.
Meanwhile, with more and more farmers staging protests outside the residences of BJP leaders, Grewal said he will be meeting Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) on this aspect. He said the party has already taken up the matter with Punjab Police as well. “ It is a violation of human rights of a person if your are sitting outside his house 24×7 for more than three months now. Some people have threatened party leader from Bathinda, Makhan Jindal, asking him to resign from the BJP or protesters will stage a dharna outside his factory and will not let him run it,” he alleged.
Grewal had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Sangrur in 1995 and had lost. He had contested the Assembly election from Rajpura in 2017 and came in a distant third.
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