Sukhbir demands wheat bonus of Rs 400 pq

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Chandigarh, Apr 3 (UNI) Shiromani Akali Dal President and Member of Parliament Sukhbir Singh Badal today urged the Union Government to announce a bonus of Rs 400 per quintal on wheat and to lift the ban imposed on private traders for purchasing crop from the Punjab farmers.

In a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the SAD president said that there was no rationale behind government refusing this bonus to the farmers while the country was importing wheat at a price ranging between Rs 1600 and Rs 1700 per quintal.

Reiterating his party's earlier demand for raising the Minimum Support Price of wheat to a minimum of Rs 1500 per quintal, Mr Badal said that this had become necessary in view of the steep increase in the prices of agricultural inputs.

"Encouraging domestic production rather than going in for huge and expensive imports is the way out of the present mess created by the old and ill-advised approach of the policy makers on the issue," said the SAD chief.

"It is amazing that the centre is willing to pay exorbitant rates to farmers from other countries for import of wheat while denying the same to our own." The Akali leader came down heavily against the Centre's decision not to allow private traders to enter the Punjab markets for procurement of wheat and said that this decision was aimed at denying the peasantry of the state their natural right to sell their produce in an open and competitive market.

Describing the Centre's decision as "totally arbitrary and anti-farmer", Mr Badal said that it was hard to see how this decision could be justified in a country that advocated liberal and free economy.

"It is doubly unreasonably and unfair as it comes at a time when the government itself was denying legitimate and remunerative prices to farmers for their produce. Why should the farmers be forced to sell their produce at a price lower than they can get in the private market." Mr Badal demanded that the prices of agricultural produce, especially food grain, should either be linked to the international prices or be determined according to the recommendations of Dr Swaminathan under which the farmers must be paid the total cumulative cost of production plus fifty percent of the same.

He said that the Centre had repeatedly turned a deaf ear even to the legitimate demand for linking MSP with the overall consumer price index and this had resulted in the wide gap between the market realities and the government's policies on agriculture.

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