Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday said that “the Union government should not victimise farmers for agitating against the central agricultural marketing laws by refusing to pay the rural development fund (RDF) component of Rs 1,100 crore on government paddy purchase”.
He said “such mechanizations to hit out at farmers and the state only confirmed fears that the process to finish the ‘mandikaran’ system had begun”.
Sukhbir, while condemning the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution for not making any provision for RDF in the cash credit limit extended for the current paddy procurement season, said that this would adversely affect the food grain procurement system in Punjab. He said the money received by the state from RDF, which was around Rs 1,850 crore per annum, was used to maintain 1,800 mandis and 70,000 km of rural link roads.
Asking the Centre to “make provision of RDF fee component in the FCI provisional cost sheet immediately”, Sukhbir said Punjab was already reeling under an economic blockade due to stoppage of inbound goods trains to the state.
“Now it must not be subject to an attack on infrastructure built to facilitate farmers and rural areas. The central government must take into account that the farmers who are agitating against its policies presently are the same who fed the nation for fifty years. The Centre should not use coercive measures against them and should win them over with love,” he added.
SAD president said the Punjab government should be allowed to withdraw RDF from the cash credit limit it had received to purchase the paddy crop.
“Not allowing the state to do this amounts to a direct attack on the rights of the state and is against the principle of federalism. The Punjab Rural Development Act allows imposition of mandi fee to maintain mandi infrastructure as well as rural link roads. Funds under this head should not be denied under flimsy grounds of scrutiny as was being done by the Consumer Affairs department,” he stated.
‘Declare MSP for fruits, vegetables’
Asking the Punjab government to follow the Kerala pattern and declare Minimum Support Price (MSP) for fresh farm fruits and vegetables to give a boost to agriculture besides ensuring government purchase of crops for which MSP had already been declared by the Centre, Akali leader and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia said: “The Congress government in Punjab should launch this scheme on the state’s foundation day on November 1 in the same manner in which the Kerala government had done recently”.
Majithia said: “While this measure would provide much needed protection to the state’s farmers against sudden price drops in times of glut, it would also pave the way for diversification”.
‘BJP has double standards on property rights’
Accusing BJP governments at the Centre and in states of “double standards on property ownership rights of citizens in different states,” SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said: “Isn’t it strange that while anyone can buy and own properties, including agricultural lands, in Punjab and now in Jammu and Kashmir, where the country’s two main minority communities happen to be in a majority, Punjabis are denied the same rights in other states, notably in Gujarat and Rajasthan.” Cheema added: “Why no Indian citizen has the right to buy agricultural land in Himachal Pradesh. Is Himachal not an integral part of the country?”
He said: “The problem for Punjabis is particularly severe in Gujarat and Rajasthan though our farmers have had to face these hardships in several other parts of the country too. Gujarat under BJP has been particularly harsh on Punjabi settlers who reclaimed barren soil and transformed it into fertile lands through sheer hard work over the decades. But once the Punjabi farmers turned the barren tracts into fertile zones, they faced eviction, despite a High Court ruling in their favour. Instead of honouring the HC verdict, the BJP government in Gujarat chose to prolong the Punjabi farmers misery by taking the matter to the Supreme Court.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines