Akalis seek lifting ban on wheat purchase by private trades

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New Delhi, Apr 5 (UNI) Punjab's Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today criticised the Centre for imposing a ban on purchase of wheat by private traders from farmers in the state describing it as an old 'unfair practice'.

Terming the practice as 'unfair', the party said the move has robbed the farmers of their due through 'market manipulations' and pauperised them, pushing some to commit suicide.

Ahead of the wheat harvesting and the stocks begin hitting the 'mandis' in a week or so, the Central Government has sent instructions that only the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and its designated state agencies would enter the markets for purchasing foodgrains from Punjab and Haryana, SAD General Secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra said here today.

''Issuing of such official fiat clearly means forcing the farmers to part with their wheat stocks at the Central Government's announced Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 1,000 a quintal while the prevailing market price ranges between 1400-1500 a quintal,'' the Akali leader said, adding that the Punjab farmers would be losing Rs 4,000-5,000 crore in the selling their wheat harvest this season.

''When no restriction is imposed on the sale of industry products within or outside the country why the farmers are made to undergo such discriminatory measures...that too amid policies of liberated economic regime,'' he added.

Elaborating it, Mr Chandumajra said the Centre had a target of procuring 13-14 million tonnes of wheat during the current season and planned to buy around 9-10 million tonnes from Punjab alone and rest from Haryana and other parts of the country.

Since the Punjab has been offering the maximum around 70 per cent of wheat to the Central Pool for past three decades, so they would be the biggest loser because they would not be allowed to realise the prevailing high prices in the open market.

Such policies amounted to clear discrimination with Punjab farmers, being used as the raw material supplier for the Central food kitty at lower rates while they, too, bear the brunt of current rise in prices as buyers of all consumer items barring foodgrains, Mr Chandumajra said.

The Akali leader was sore at the agricultural state affairs saying instead the Centre should have compensated Punjab whose contribution to the foodgrains production had made the country self-sufficient and broken the ignoble 'ship-to-mouth' syndrome.

Rather, the state was used as the 'laboratory' for the 'Green Revolution' which virtually mined away the fertility of soil, sapped the ground water and polluted the entire environment resulting in higher cost of cultivation, he said.

''Around 70 per cent of irrigation in Punjab is from the groundwater and a tubewell now costs around Rs two lakh, about 10 times what was a decade ago. Similaly, prices of other agricultural inputs has gone up rendering the farming an unviable profession.

Unfortunately, the Centre was ready to import wheat at any higher prices, but not prepared to pay the same to the country farmers.

SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal has already written to the Prime Minister to lift the ban on purchase of wheat by the private trade. And, the Bharat Kisan Union (BKU) of Punjab has already given a call to the farmers not to bring wheat to the market till April 25 as protest against the ban on private purchase.

UNI JSS SBA HT1855

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